02/04/2010  |  
Canker Sores Are Not Contagious

At some point, many of us have suffered from canker sores, which should not be confused with cold sores or fever blisters. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus (HSV1) and usually occur on or around the lips, but can occur inside the mouth on the gums, tongue and palate especially in an acute case. Canker sores are small, painful red bordered ulcers with a white or yellowish base. They occur inside the mouth generally on the more moveable tissue; under the tongue, cheeks, and inside the lips. While their exact cause is uncertain it is thought that fatigue, stress and trauma seem to increase the likelihood of recurrence. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious.

The only treatment is to reduce pain and irritation because the ulcers heal on their own in 7-10 days. Over-the-counter products, pastes or ointments containing “benzocaine” a topical anesthetic, provide temporary relief and promote healing. You can also:

  • Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthrinse or warm saltwater
  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Avoid hot or spicy foods to minimize irritation

If your canker sores persist or if a sore does not heal, see your dentist or doctor to verify the diagnosis.


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