As we enter the holiday season, our risk for illness increases. Perhaps it’s because we’re confined to the indoors with others more often. However, for many of us, the added stressful during this time of year can compromise the immune systems, which can place our resistance at lower levels.
In spite of getting our flu shot, washing hands often, boosting vitamin C intake and staying active, a couple of irritating and embarrassing oral problems tend to emerge more during stressful times of the year.
During the holidays, we see more individuals who develop canker and cold sores. With ultra-busy times of year like the holidays, your likelihood of getting a cold or canker sore increases along with the added stress.
The two are often confused, however, with the difference being:
These are small ulcers that typically have a white or gray base and red border. Unlike cold sores, canker sores appear inside the mouth and are not contagious. The exact cause of canker sores is uncertain but fatigue, stress or allergies can increase the likelihood of a canker sore. Some experts suspect immune system problems, bacteria or viruses can also spurn eruption. A cut caused by biting the tongue or inside of the cheek as well as hot foods or beverages may contribute to canker sore development. Canker sores usually heal on their own in a week or two. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics, steroid preparations, and antimicrobial mouth rinses can provide temporary relief. As a holistic method, you may try swishing with plain, sugar-free yogurt for a minute or so. This helps to restore a healthy bacteria balance in the mouth while soothing discomfort.
These are also referred to as fever blisters or Herpes simplex and are located around the lips, under the nose or on the chin. Caused by herpes virus type 1, cold sores are very contagious. These are clusters of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt since are they are most commonly found around the edge of the lips. Cold sores are Herpes lesions that may follow a fever, sunburn, skin abrasions or emotional upset. Because cold sore blisters are on the outside of the mouth, they can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Although they usually heal in a week, over-the-counter topical anesthetics may speed the process while providing some relief. In our office, we can use a laser to hasten healing, often within a 2-3 day period. If occurrences are frequent, ask about prescription drugs that can help reduce the duration of these viral infections.
It is important, however, to pay close attention to any change to oral tissue that does not heal within 10-14 days. When oral tissue does not repair on its own in a week or two, it should be examined immediately! This is a symptom of oral cancer, which kills 1 person every hour of every day.
Oral cancer has one of the worst survival rates of all cancers. Because symptoms can mimic a bite on the inside of your cheek, more obvious symptoms often do not emerge until the cancer has reached advanced stages. Of those who acquire oral cancer, only 57% are estimated to still be alive 5 years later.
Some tissue changes in your mouth are normal and repair on their own in about 10 days. However, it is important to be aware of oral cancer’s symptoms and react quickly to areas that change further or do not go away. Symptoms include:
• white or red patch of tissue
• unusual lesion in the mouth
• difficulty or discomfort when swallowing
• persistent sore throat or feeling something is stuck in the throat
• a lump or mass inside the mouth or neck
• wart-like mass
• numbness in the mouth or face
Lesions or discolorations that are early warning signs are not always visible, particularly in the back portion of the mouth (the oropharynx, the tonsils, and base of tongue), which can be an obstacle to early diagnosis and treatment. This is yet another reason that keeping your regular oral hygiene exam and cleanings is so important. During these times, we look for unusual changes in the mouth that can indicate a problem. However, you should never wait until your scheduled appointment to have anything unusual examined.
While uncomfortable canker or cold sores may not be welcome, they tend to go away in a week or ten days. Again, if an unusual spot or sore is still present after two weeks, call 586-739-2155 immediately for an appointment.