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Two words—”cold sore” or “canker sore”—can quickly bring out the yuck factor for all of us. No one wants them, and no one enjoys having them, but they’re almost inevitable, especially during the super chilly winter months. But why? What’s the difference between the two, and how does cold weather affect them both? It can be a bummer of a topic, but your Overland Park dentist is here to shed a little light on the subject so that you can better prepare yourself when you step out into the cold this winter.
For starters, though they often seem similar, canker sores and cold sores are actually two different conditions. Cold sores can be brought on by winter weather, as well as by a host of other triggers such as stress, fatigue, excessive sunlight, or a weakened immune system. Canker sores, not so much. What’s the difference?
What Is a Canker Sore? Canker sores are literally shallow wounds on the inside of your mouth. They can form in any number of places: inside your cheeks, on your tongue, on the roof of your mouth or on your gums, to name a few. They may show up any time of year, brought on by factors such as stress, nutritional deficiencies, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, and certain foods and beverages, especially ones that are high in acid. Many people (about 1 in 5) suffer from canker sores regularly. They’re not so much a “winter problem,” like cold sores often are.
What Are Cold Sores? While cold sores can be exacerbated by any number of things—including cold weather—they are caused by an infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They usually take the form of small blisters, sometimes called “fever blisters,” which may be preceded by itching, burning, or tingling. The bad news is that they can appear at any time of year, and there’s not much that can be done once they show up. The good news is that they usually resolve on their own within a week to ten days.
What Can You Do? During the icy winter months, cold weather can dry or chap the skin around your lips, which can cause the oral herpes virus to reactivate. It’s important to protect yourself when the weather is cold, and you want to especially protect sensitive areas like your lips. Wearing a scarf can help protect your face from cold wind, while lip protection and moisturizer can help treat chapped or dry lips. This can reduce the likelihood of developing cold sores.
Whether you’re suffering from cold sores or canker sores, the experience can often feel similar. Fortunately, your Overland Park dentist has advice that can help, from how to prevent sores from forming to how to get relief. We can advise you on dietary or lifestyle changes that may help and also assist with other seasonal oral health concerns such as tooth sensitivity. Just call Watts Family Dental at (913) 338-3384 to schedule an appointment or chat with a member of our friendly staff anytime!