Help! What are Those Sore Spots in my Mouth? Dealing with Herpetiform Canker Sores

A painful sensation in your mouth while eating and drinking, or worse, while sitting still, may send you over to the nearest mirror for a look at what exactly is going on. When you take a peek, do you see a collection of tiny sores, clustered together? If you do, you’re likely to be concerned. Any time you find a sore or injury you are likely to be concerned, and you definitely will want to know why you have a sore in your mouth.  When you have what looks like dozens of tiny sores, you probably will also want to know if they are contagious, how you got the sores in the first place, and how to keep from getting any more of those. So, what is going on and what can you do about it?

Seriously, Why Are There So Many?

Small sores, about the size of a pencil point or the head of a pin that develop in clusters, sometimes as many as 100, have a special name. They are called herpetiform canker sores. Although their name contains the same word root as herpes, they are not caused by the herpes virus. This particular type of canker sore is fairly uncommon, and, unusually for canker sores, is more common in older people. Sometimes, the clusters of small herpetiform canker sores will merge into one larger sore, so it’s important to track the development of the sore(s) and share any changes you observe with your dental care team or your doctor if you seek treatment for the sores so they have the best picture of your condition and can provide you with the best care possible.

But, Are They Contagious?

Like other forms of canker sores, they are not contagious. Even when you have an active outbreak of canker sores, they are not passed from person to person. Still, there is room for caution here. Even though herpetiform canker sores are not contagious, they can closely resemble cold sores and other conditions that are infectious and that can be passed from person to person. It’s important to be certain that you have canker sores if you want to avoid the potential of passing on a contagious condition to anyone else. If you have any doubts, check in with your doctor or a dental care professional.

Why Do They Develop?

It’s not always clear why canker sores develop. They are commonly found with certain other conditions or circumstances. First and foremost, they can be caused by injuries in the mouth, including injuries from brushing too hard or biting the inside of the mouth. They are also associated with certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies and anemia, they can flare up with stress, and they can be a sign of autoimmune disease or an allergic reaction.

What Can I do to Treat Herpetiform Canker Sores?

In most cases, this type of sore clears up on its own without further treatment. It commonly takes about a week and should take less than a month. If It does not appear to be healing well or if the canker sores are causing unacceptable levels of discomfort, you can visit your dental care team for help. They may recommend a topical pain reliever, an antiseptic treatment or rinse, or steroid treatment for particularly inflamed cases. Baking soda rinses are generally considered safe home treatment and can be used while waiting for an appointment to have the condition evaluated. If the underlying cause of the herpetiform ulcers is related to a nutritional deficiency, it’s important to correct the deficiency to help heal the canker sores and prevent them from recurring.

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