Cold sores and visiting the dentist

You may suffer from cold sores regularly, or have just noticed your first cold sore appearing around your mouth. Cold sores can be very painful and are highly contagious, so need to be treated as soon as possible. A cold sore will appear on the lip in the form of a small blister. The blister will heal and harden to a yellow crust, taking up to a week to completely heal. If you have noticed a cold sore and are due to visit the dentist, you may question whether you should still attend your appointment.

In most circumstances when the treatment is not urgent, we would suggest that you do not attend and instead call your dental surgery to rearrange an appointment.

Due to how contagious cold sores can be, there is a small chance that you could pass the virus onto another patient. A cold sore is most contagious when it is blistering and it is human nature to attempt to touch areas of the body that are in pain. There is a chance that you could pass the virus to another person’s hands through touching objects in the waiting room or dental chair.

Whilst the chances of you spreading the virus are slim and rare, there are other ways in which the dental procedure will be affected by the cold sore. Some dentists prefer to not treat patients carrying the virus as the procedure may split the dry skin on the lip causing it to bleed and crack. The patient will be in more pain than necessary and the procedure may not be able to continue. The healing process of the cold sore will also be extended and the infection could worsen. In some cases, the patient is unable to open their mouth fully due to the sore, rendering the treatment useless.

It is therefore recommended that you rearrange your dental appointment in the case of a cold sore outbreak and wait for a time when you are feeling well enough. It is not worth putting yourself and possibly others through discomfort for the sake of rebooking for the following week.

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