Written by Dr. Alice Vessel

They appear at the most inopportune times and they hurt like the dickens… those sores both in and around the mouth.

Two of the most common sores are canker sores (apthous ulcers) and cold sores (herpetic stomatitis).

Canker sores are located inside the mouth on the soft red tissue at the base of the gums, on the cheeks, or under the tongue. They appear as yellow or white ulcers and are extremely painful. The exact mechanism is not known but they appear with a drop in the immune system, minor mouth trauma, nutritional deficiencies, and auto immune disorders. They are not contagious but take 7-10 days to heal. There are topical preparations (Orajel) that numb the sores. Home remedies consist or 1 tsp salt or baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. There are also topical corticosteroids that aid in the healing.

Cold sores usually refer to sores on the border of the lips, hard palate, or pink gingiva. The lesions appear as small fluid-filled blisters that rupture and scab over. They too are painful beyond belief. These lesions are due to the Herpes I virus and they are contagious before they crust over. The virus lives in an associated ganglia (nerve hub) and expresses itself with an illness, hormone changes, or trauma, sun, and wind. Antiviral therapy (Valtrex) lessens the healing time; and, if taken prior to an outbreak prevent future outbreaks.

Both of sores occur with a drop in the immune system or stress. Most people seem to be prone to one type over the other. These nasty little buggers are a good reason to sip vitamin C, eat right and get plenty of sleep.


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