Most people know that cold sores are uncomfortable and embarrassing, but they can also pose some major problems when it comes to your dental checkup.

But why would your dentist care if you have a cold sore on your mouth?

Cold sores – also called fever blisters – affect most of us at one time or another. Data from the National Center for Disease Control suggests that 90% of Americans will experience at least one cold sore in their lifetime, although only an unlucky few get them regularly. Doctors believe has to do with genetic factors, but outbreaks can also be triggered by stress, changing hormonal levels, and sun exposure.

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the most common cause of cold sores and spreads from person to person through infected bodily fluids. While the virus hides inside nerve cells between sores and never completely goes away, it sometimes starts to reproduce, creating weeping sores that last 7-10 days.

The reason that your dentist is concerned about an active cold sore is that the virus could be spread during your appointment, extending the sore to other areas of your mouth or skin or even infecting the dentist, hygienist, or assistant. The greater risk – especially with the use of ultrasonic dental cleaning tools like we use at Sardina Dental Group – is that the virus could be spread into your eyes. HSV-1 infection of the eye is responsible for most cases of corneal blindness in the United States. This is why it’s simply not worth the risk of keeping your appointment.

So when can you keep your dental appointment?

Our staff can safely see your after your cold sores have scabbed over. If your cold sore has flared up a few days before your dental visit and you know it will be on its way out when you come in, you can keep your appointment. However, if you start to feel that familiar tingling in your lip and know you’re likely to get a flare-up that coincides with your scheduled dental visit, please call us and we can easily reschedule your visit. We may also be able to prescribe a medication to shorten the time it takes your cold sore to heal, such as Acyclovir (Zovirax) or penciclovir (Denavir) cream.

In summary, if you have a cold sore, please call us – and we’ll happily get you rescheduled for your appointment. Remember, this is for your safety!

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