Mouth Sores and Lesions
Mouth sores and oral lesions are a common issue for many patients. Unfortunately, they are often a painful problem to have. Luckily, most sores will generally heal on their own within two weeks. Mouth sores can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, as well as trauma from a sharp edge on a tooth, a sharp chip, or an ill-fitting appliance. Occasionally, oral lesions can be caused by other disease or autoimmune processes. The most commonly experienced mouth sores are canker sores and fever blisters.
Canker sores are commonly referred to as ulcers. These non-contagious lesions can be small or large and typically have a white or gray appearance with a red border. Although canker sores generally go away on their own within two weeks, they can be extremely painful. Topical anesthetics, antimicrobial mouthwashes, and warm salt water rinses can help alleviate some of the pain. It is also a good idea to stay away from hot, spicy, or acidic foods that can cause more irritation to the ulcer.
Fever blisters on the other hand, are highly contagious lesions that are caused by the Herpes Simplex type 1 virus. Lesions present themselves as painful, fluid-filled blisters that erupt and scab over. Patients may notice a tingling sensation prior to the arrival of the fluid-filled blisters. The blisters may erupt in the oral cavity and around the nose, chin, and lips. Like the canker sore, fever blisters should heal on their own within two weeks. However, topical anesthetics and prescribed antiviral medications can be used lessen the symptoms and duration of the outbreak, especially is used before the outbreak. If you get the tingling feeling that accompanies fever blisters or have active vesicles, it is best to defer dental treatment so it doesn’t spread to other areas of your mouth and face or to other people. Once infected with the virus, it is possible to have multiple outbreaks throughout a lifetime.
When it comes to any type of mouth sore or oral lesion, it is always a good idea to err on the side of caution. On rare occasion, oral lesions can be caused by diseases and autoimmune processes, or cancer. As a rule of thumb, if a lesion does not go away within three weeks, come in for an evaluation or possible biopsy.
Emily H., RDH
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