Is a Canker Sore the Same as a Cold Sore? Your Questions, Answered

Canker Sore Vs Cold Sore FAQ

Any type of discomfort when it comes to your mouth is never ideal. Whether it’s a toothache, gum pain, or a lesion, it’s understandable that you would want to address any problem with your oral cavity as soon as possible.

Two issues people can have with the softer tissues of their mouth include canker sores and cold sores (which are also called fever blisters). A canker sore is not the same as a cold sore, although they both can cause discomfort.

So what exactly is the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore? We have your questions answered about these common types of uncomfortable mouth lesions here.

Canker sore: Question & Answer

A canker sore always occurs inside the mouth. It can be anywhere on the softer tissues of your oral cavity, including on your tongue, cheeks, the inside of your lips, or even your throat. Canker sores are not contagious.

On the other hand, a cold sore typically occurs on the outside of the oral cavity, namely on the outside of the lips. However, some people may first experience a cold sore on the inside of their mouth, whereas subsequent cold sores will be on the outside. Cold sores are contagious.

Both cold sores and canker sores are inflamed tissue and can be uncomfortable and take a while to go away; a few days or weeks for some people.

While canker sores tend to have a white or gray center surrounded by red tissue, a cold sore on the lips will appear as a red sore that can look bright red or cloudy. Eventually, the sore will scab over and start to heal, but it can take a few days.

What Causes Canker Sores and Cold Sores?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is a very common virus that is highly contagious. A person with this virus typically doesn’t have any symptoms, but cold sores can develop when a person is stressed, fatigued, injured, or even during hormonal changes, such as menstruation.

The causes of canker sores are debated. Unlike cold sores, they aren’t directly tied to a virus. Canker sores can develop from eating acidic foods, an allergic reaction, or even vitamin deficiencies or stress may contribute. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV, AIDS, or an autoimmune disorder, may also be more at risk for developing canker sores.

Can I Get Both Canker Sores and Cold Sores?

Yes, it’s possible to get both canker sores and cold sores, although it’s not very common. If you frequently get either or both canker sores or cold sores, it’s time to visit your dentist to see if there could be a potential trigger or underlying factor causing them.

Do Canker Sores Go Away on Their Own?

Both canker sores and cold sores typically go away on their own, although healing can take longer than most people like—up to two weeks in many cases. That’s a long time to live with the discomfort of a canker sore and the embarrassment of a visible cold sore!

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to speed up healing. Cold compresses and topical ointments may help relieve the discomfort of cold sores; however, they won’t necessarily accelerate the healing process. The best thing you can do is to not touch the sore and remember that the sore is contagious.

For canker sores, a saltwater rinse may help relieve discomfort, although the cold sore will generally heal on its own within 10 days.

How Do I Know If a Canker Sore Is Healing?

A healing canker sore may start to turn yellow instead of having a white or gray center, and the tissue around it can appear less red. As a canker sore heals, the discomfort will ease until it is gone completely and the canker sore disappears.

For a cold sore, the scab that forms after the blister will slowly heal and go away. Eventually, the scab will begin to flake and fall off as swelling decreases. The scab should disappear entirely and not leave a scar when it is done healing, although a cold sore, just like canker sores, can reoccur.

Do Canker and Cold Sores Affect Your Oral Health?

There’s no evidence to suggest that either canker sores or cold sores affect your oral health, although both can be uncomfortable and cause pain.

However, your oral health is linked to your immune system, and it’s possible that your immune system could trigger a canker sore or cold sore to form. As such, it’s always imperative to maintain your oral health to protect both your smile and your body.

In addition, it’s possible that poor oral health can make canker sores worse or delay the healing process, so keeping your smile clean by brushing and flossing is important while you’re healing from a mouth sore.

When Should You See Your Dentist?

You should always seek the professional advice of your dentist in Asheville if cold sores don’t get better, get worse, or are still there after two weeks. You should also seek medical advice if you have other symptoms along with your cold sore, such as a fever, bleeding, or an infection.

Although canker sores are almost always harmless, those that don’t go away could be a symptom of a more pressing oral health problem, such as oral cancer. If you’re not sure if you are dealing with a canker sore or cold sore, it never hurts to visit your dentist.

Have Questions About a Mouth Sore?

If you have a mouth sore that you aren’t sure what it is, it’s not healing, or it’s very painful, don’t wait to book an appointment with us at Saunders DDS. We can help you identify the sore you’re dealing with as well as conduct an oral cancer screening to ensure you aren’t having signs or symptoms of oral cancer during your appointment. Contact us today at (828) 277-6060 or use our contact form to request an appointment and we will be glad to assist you!