So you’ve developed a cold sore, but you’re wondering if it’s contagious because you don’t want to spread it to others. You may also be trying to figure out if it’s okay to go ahead to the dental appointment you had scheduled this week.

At the Center for Advanced Dentistry in San Jose, we’ve seen patients come in with every condition under the sun. In most cases, we try to accommodate them so we can complete their treatment, but there are times we ask patients to reschedule.

To give a short answer to the question in the headline, yes, cold sores are contagious, and you would do well to reschedule your dental appointment for a later time. Read on to find out more about what causes cold sores and how to avoid them.

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores (also sometimes called fever blisters) are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). This common and contagious virus affects 67% of people around the world (that’s 3.7 billion people).

Many of these HSV-1 infections are asymptomatic, but some cases do include sores or blisters that form at the point of infection (on or around your lips). You will usually feel a tingling and itching first, followed by the eruption of small, fluid-filled blisters that eventually open up, leaving sores that ooze before crusting and scabbing over.

You can spread the virus anytime through close personal contact, but it is most contagious when the sores are open and oozing.

The sores will generally clear up without treatment, but prescription antiviral pills and creams are available that can cut down on the severity and length of the outbreak, especially if they are a frequent occurrence for you.

Should I go to the dentist with a cold sore?

If you have cold sores on or around your lips and you have a scheduled dentist appointment, the safest course of action is to reschedule your appointment until after the sores have cleared up. It usually takes about 15 days for the virus to run its course.

Dentists are able to treat cold sores, though, so let your dentist’s office know if you have a question or think you need a prescription.

Tips to keep cold sores from spreading

Our number one tip? Keep your hands off! The only time you should touch your cold sore is if you are applying medication. Otherwise, don’t touch the sore — you’ll just be spreading the virus to the next thing you touch. If you do happen to touch those spots, make sure you wash your hands right away.

This is fairly obvious, but don’t kiss anyone, even on the cheek, if you have a cold sore. You should also avoid sharing personal items such as cups, silverware, lip balm, etc.

One final tip you might overlook: Replace your toothbrush when your sore heals. You don’t want to keep reintroducing the infection into your mouth.

If you’re looking for a dentist to help you with cold sores or any other dental issues, call the office of the Center for Advanced Dentistry in San Jose, or book your own appointment with our easy online scheduler. We’d love to help!

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