These are two lesions that can occur in and around the mouth, and are often confused with one another. Here is what you need to know about them:
These appear as red, fluid-filled sores, most often occurring outside the mouth, (around your lips). The sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which can be easily spread via direct contact, and they can also be rather painful. Avoid sharing utensils and drinks with an infected individual.
That said, a lot of people carry the virus, but don’t present with visible sores. That’s because the virus can remain dormant within the body, and be triggered later on by things like stress, excessive sun exposure, or a weakened immune system. Some ways to prevent cold sores include:
- Taking care of your body (through proper nutrition and regular exercise)
- Wearing sunscreen during the summer months
- Regular hand-washing and good hygiene habits
If you have active cold sores, make sure you wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching the sores to prevent the spread to other parts of your body, and also to other people.
Before the sores erupt, some people may experience a tingling or burning sensation in commonly affected areas. For those that experience lesions quite frequently, consider asking your doctor or dentist for prescription antiviral medication, which may prevent the severity of the lesion.
These are sores that most often appear inside the mouth, have a white or grey centre and red border, and can present as either a single lesion or a cluster of lesions. The exact cause of the sores is unknown, but stress, fatigue, hormonal changes, and localized irritation/trauma are commonly associated with them. From a dental perspective, the sharp edge of a broken tooth is an example of localized irritation.
The sores are not contagious, but they can be very uncomfortable during the 1-2 weeks they usually take to heal. During that time, try rinsing your mouth with salt water (1/2 tsp. in a cup of warm water) and avoid eating spicy and acidic foods. You could also try a simple topical anaesthetic like Orajel from your local drug store to temporarily numb the area.