If you’ve ever had a canker sore or cold sore, then you know just how uncomfortable and annoying they can be. Without treatment, they can last anywhere from one to three weeks. Although there are over-the-counter medications that can ease the pain, or, in the case of cold sores, reduce the time and severity of viral infection, most treatments are quite ineffective.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of a canker sore or prevent your next cold sore from developing, there is another option. Keep reading for more information about these bothersome afflictions and how a trip to the dentist may very well be the best way to combat them.
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, often appear as a group of tiny blisters on or around the border of the lip. They are a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus and are highly contagious. Cold sores can be spread by direct contact with the fluid from these blisters, the saliva of an infected person, or by using the same utensils, lip balm, or razors.
Once you are infected with the virus, it can lie dormant in the body and reactivate at any time. Factors that can trigger this reactivation include stress, fatigue, exposure to sunlight and wind, hormonal changes, and a weakened immune system.
Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are small, shallow lesions (wounds) that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth. They are most common on the inside of the cheek, on the lips, gums, or even under your tongue. They can be triggered by a variety of things including stress, hormonal changes, smoking, injury or trauma to the mouth, acidic foods, and vitamin deficiencies. Unlike cold sores, canker sores aren’t caused by viruses so you don’t have to worry about them being transmitted from person to person. Although they make talking, eating, or drinking painful, they aren’t dangerous.
Dental lasers are increasingly being used to treat common oral conditions such as canker sores and cold sores, providing a more efficient, less uncomfortable alternative to traditional treatments. One of the biggest advantages of using a dental laser to treat canker sores and cold sores is that it's very effective at alleviating pain. Many patients report an immediate reduction in pain following the treatment. The procedure is also very fast, usually taking only a few minutes.
Another benefit of laser treatment is that it helps to reduce the recovery time. The laser stimulates the body's immune response and promotes faster tissue repair. Therefore, sores treated with a dental laser often heal in only a few days, compared to one to two weeks with traditional management strategies.
Furthermore, the laser treatment can also help prevent sores from recurring in the future. In the case of cold sores, the laser energy is able to destroy the virus, thereby reducing the chances of a future outbreak at that site.
Most people have never heard of photobiomodulation (PBM) or how dental lasers can be used to treat sores, injuries, and infections in the mouth. Although the name may sound intimidating, the concept is really quite simple. A laser is used to direct pure infrared light to an affected area in order to stimulate cells to heal tissue faster. It does this by directly energizing the mitochondria in your tissues to produce more energy. Think of it like the way we respond to caffeine. You get more done in the same amount of time, but the effects are temporary. The same is true of photobiomodulation.
While most sores and injuries in the mouth only require one minute of treatment, other things may require multiple treatments two to three days apart. The best part of photobiomodulation is that it's quick (1 minute per site) and painless. At most, you could feel some warmth and sometimes some tingling within two hours of the treatment, but that is simply a sign that the light working its magic.
While dental laser treatment is generally safe and effective, it may not be suitable for everyone. Patients who are pregnant, have a pacemaker or have photosensitivity disorders may not be eligible for the treatment. Therefore, it's important to discuss this treatment option with a dental professional.
Our Boulder dentist office is proud to be able to offer our patients the best dental care using the latest technology, including photobiomodulation. The two most common things that we treat here at Pearl Street Dental are cold sores and canker sores. Cold sores respond best when you treat them at the first sign one is coming on (usually a tingling sensation in the lip) and couple it with an anti-viral medication that we prescribe. If treated early, there is a good chance we can avoid the blisters from popping and causing the sore.
Canker sores, on the other hand, simply clear up much sooner with PBM. Candida albicans infections can also be treated and shortened with PBM and medication. Plus, there are other things that can benefit from PBM. Did you get a pizza burn? Got a popcorn kernel jammed in your gums? Tortilla chip poked you hard? All of these injuries will take less time to heal with a one-minute PBM treatment.
If you find yourself in any situation where photobiomodulation may be able to help, just give Pearl Street Dental a call and we will find a time to get you into our office that day.