Canker Sore Or Cold Sore?

Posted on Sep 10, 2014 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

We always urge patients to pay close attention to any unusual sore or discoloration in the mouth or on the lips. Oral cancer is one of the most deadly of all cancers when not caught early. However, at this time of year, it seems that canker and cold sores are more prevalent.

Do you have a Canker or Cold Sore? 
Typically, if the sore is located inside your mouth, it’s likely a canker sore. If it’s on the outside, it is probably a cold sore.

Canker sores (mouth ulcers) generally occur inside the mouth and are bacterial in nature. They are often triggered by trauma such as biting your cheek, jabbing your gum with your toothbrush or even overzealous tooth cleaning.

Cold sores are tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters that form around the mouth and are caused by the herpes simplex virus living inside nerve tissues. (It is not the same virus that causes genital herpes.) Here are some guidelines:

A cold sore occurs outside the mouth. A canker sore is on the inside of your mouth.

A cold sore appears as tiny, clear fever blisters. A canker sore is a small white or gray ulcer on the lips or under the nose base, often with a red border.

A cold sore will last about a week while a canker sore may hang around for one or two weeks. Keep in mind a cold sore is not contagious, but a canker sore is.

A cold sore can be treated with Aloe Vera or over-the-counter topical anesthetics to cut pain and discomfort. You can also rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash or salt dissolved in warm water. Canker sores require over-the-counter medications or prescription antiviral drugs to prevent outbreak, especially if they are frequent. Over-the-counter oral anesthetics may help with pain relief.

Please remember that any sore or unusual spot that doesn’t get better in two weeks should be examined IMMEDIATELY. Oral cancer can take on many shapes and colors and is a serious, and even deadly, disease that requires early treatment.

Call (828) 274-9440 if you have questions or need an examination.

Recent Posts