Almost on a weekly basis, we get asked whether it’s ok to have dental treatment while there is a cold sore present.
Before I answer this question, I will explain the causes and current treatments available for the common cold sore (which is caused by the Herpes Simplex type 1virus).
What causes them to occur?
Cold sores are caused by the HS virus (Usually type 1 for oral cold sores)-this virus is generally transmitted during early childhood via saliva i.e. kissing your baby, children sharing eating utensils, although the virus can lie dormant in the nervous system until triggered, which can be many years later.
Cold sores can be brought on by stress, menstruation, bright sunlight, wind damage, sunburn, fever, or local skin trauma. Even kissing someone with stubble! Surgical procedures such as dental or neural surgery lip tattooing, or microdermabrasion or facial resurfacing are also common triggers.
How will I know if I am getting a cold sore??
When you are about to get a cold sore, you will generally experience some or all of the following at the site where the cold sore will appear:
a) Tingling (prodromal) stage: Itching, burning, tingling, and/or pain signal the start of a cold sore.
b) Redness (erythema) stage: Swelling, redness, and soreness begin.
Then after this phase has passed we see:
c) Small bumps (papule) stage: Small bumps develop and swelling may continue.
d) Blister (vesicle) stage: One or more fluid-filled blisters form.
e) Soft crust (ulcer) stage: Blisters break open and form an ulcer
Finally we see:
f) Hard crust stage: Drying of the ulcer results in a scab and the hard crust disappears
g) Remaining symptoms stage: Swelling, dry skin flakes, and/or redness remain after loss of the hard crust, and returning to the…….
h) Normal skin stage: Cold sore disappears and normal skin returns
How can I treat/get rid of my cold core(s)?
Treatments available depend on what stage you start treatment:
Acyclivor topical cream is available in Ireland as Zovirax. This anti -viral topical cream which works by stopping the virus from copying itself, causing shorter outbreaks. It is a treatment for cold sores, not a cure.
Compeed Cold Sore Patch-this patch covers and protects the cold sore lesion, creating the optimal germ-free healing environment for faster healing and prevention of scab formation.
Plenty of other types of treatments exist for treatment for cold sores, but most centre around drying out the blister (applying alcohol Perfumes, Red wine sediment). Moisturizing the soft or hard crusts aids healing.
If you suffer from repeated severe episodes of cold sores, see your G.P., as a systemic course of anti viral medication could see you cold sore free for up to six months.
After your cold sore has healed, you may feel the area is still slightly raised. If this is the case, the root of the cold sore is living just under the skin. as such mild triggers can bring about another cold sore. Using a really rich moisturizer or vaseline for 3-4 weeks at night time can allow skin layers to shed evenly, and this will shed the root.
Finally Can I have dental treatment whilst I have a cold sore?
Technically, yes you can—but we consider it best to avoid all non-emergency dental treatments if possible, as the healing of the cold sore may be delayed due to the aggravation of the lips being stretched during treatment. Equally, it is ok to have dental treatment once you have passed the infectious stage—which is just after the vesicles have started to heal over and form the soft crust stage.