Cold Sores and Mouth Ulcers: A Better, Faster Way to Treat Them Using Lasers

Cold Sores and Mouth Ulcers: A Better, Faster Way to Treat Them Using Lasers


Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) can provide a quick, safe, pain-free treatment for Cold Sores and Canker Sores.

The use of dental lasers has provided oral healthcare professionals with a new and improved approach to the treatment and management of common oral conditions like cold sores and ulcers.

What is a Cold Sore?

Cold Sores, or fever blisters, are a group of small fluid-filled sores on the lip or around the mouth that are caused by a common, highly contagious virus. After someone has contracted the virus, it remains dormant (inactive) in the body most of the time. However, the virus can be “reactivated” by certain triggers, resulting in an outbreak of cold sores. These triggers vary from person to person but can include stress, illness, fatigue, sun exposure and trauma to the affected area.

What are the Symptoms of a Cold Sore?

The warning signs of a cold sore may include tingling, itching, or pain around the mouth and lips, fever, sore throat, or swollen glands on the neck or other parts of the body.   After the blisters appear, the cold sore usually breaks open, leaks a clear fluid, and then crusts over and begins to heal, disappearing after several days to several weeks.

What is a Canker Sore?

A “Canker sore” is another name for the common (Aphthous) ulcer. Aphthous ulcers are painful sores that appear on the tongue, roof of the mouth, or inside the lips and cheeks. They are generally small, round ulcers, usually whitish or yellow in appearance with a red border, and can cause great discomfort while speaking or eating. While the exact cause remains poorly understood, they often appear as a result of stress, lack of sleep or tissue injury. Certain types of spices or acidic foods can sometimes trigger a sore or make them worse, and certain underlying health conditions have also been associated with their occurrence.

How are these Sores Treated?

Traditional treatments for both conditions include topical creams and mouth rinses, which can help to manage pain and discomfort but are generally ineffective at accelerating the healing process. For cold sores, antiviral medications (Acyclovir) can be used to treat outbreaks, but these typically only reduce healing time by a few days.   Antimicrobial and corticosteroid mouth rinses are often prescribed for the management pain associated with aphthous ulcers, but these have minimal effects on healing time.

However, Low-Level Laser Therapy has proven to be a quick-acting alternative for the treatment of ulcers and cold sores that provides both effective pain relief and a significant reduction in healing time. Low-Level Lasers work by stimulating the growth of cells involved in wound healing without altering the nature of the newly formed cells.   This essentially reduces the size of the lesion, while accelerating the healing process. At the same time, the effect of the laser on the nerve fibers greatly reduces the transmission of pain signals, resulting in immediate, profound relief.

Recent studies using Low-Level Laser Therapy to treat ulcers revealed that 75% of patients reported pain relief immediately following laser treatment, with a total regression of the ulcer occurring just 4 days after the treatment session. Similarly, when used to treat cold sores, the majority of lesions completely healed within 2 days, while almost all lesions were healed within 5 days. When treated during the early “warning” stages of a cold sore, laser treatment can prevent blister development altogether. By reducing pain and accelerating healing time, low-level laser light therapy for these conditions has proven to be a promising alternative to traditional treatment.

What are the benefits of using a laser in treating Cold Sores?

  • Treatment is quick, affordable and pain-free
  • Pain relief is immediate and longer-lasting than topical treatments
  • Faster healing without discomfort
  • Helps prevent sores from forming if treated during the warning stage
  • Arrests the progression of the sore following treatment
  • After treatment, it’s possible for sores recur with less frequency and less intensity

Dr. Matt Thompson is an American Dentist and the Clinical Director at Expat Dental in Singapore. In addition to dental laser therapies, Expat Dental provides a full range of general, cosmetic, hygiene, and pediatric dental treatments.

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