I have a cold sore: Can I still attend my dental appointment

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Ouch! Cold sores can be uncomfortable as well as inconvenient. At Medland Dental, your safety when attending dental appointments is at the heart of every decision we make. As an Accredited Dental Practice, we always ensure that we meet the strict National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. Therefore, we would like to clarify with our patients the standards for dental treatment when a cold sore is present.

A cold sore is a fluid-filled blister caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1) which develops on, and around the lips. A cold sore usually starts as a tingling or burning sensation, which then develops into a small fluid-filled blister; sometimes, the blisters can group together. When the blister bursts, which is often painful, the cold sore weeps a fluid-filled with the herpes simplex virus particles and is very infectious. After several days a crust will form over the cold sore, protecting the skin beneath. However, this crust may crack and bleed when touched. After two weeks, the cold sore will usually have healed. 

Once a person is infected with HSV-1, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it remains dormant on nerve cells of the skin. Over time the virus can reactivate and cause other colds sores to appear. Cold sores that come back are thought to be triggered by stress, illness, fatigue and sunlight. In addition to causing cold sores, the Herpes Simplex Virus can cause sores in the eyes, known as ocular herpes or herpetic eye disease; and on the fingers, known as Herpetic Whitlow. Exposure to the Herpes Simplex Virus may be particularly dangerous for very young babies, being the most common cause of viral encephalitis in infants and children.

The virus is spread through contact, either directly through the saliva or nasal secretions of a person with a cold sore. It can also be spread through aerosolisation of that person’s saliva (where saliva particles are made small enough, they can be carried in the air and make contact with surrounding objects and surfaces). This poses a high risk for contamination to you, other patients and our team whilst you are being treated. 

A cold sore is most infectious from when the tingling and burning starts, until the scab comes away and the skin is completely healed. For most people, this is a period of about two weeks. 

At Medland Dental, we ask that if you have a cold sore for less than two weeks, please reschedule any non-emergency dental appointments until after your cold sore has healed. This is not only because of the high risk of spreading the virus, but also because your lips may feel sore and could crack or bleed during dental treatment. 

If you do have a cold sore or feel one starting, and you have a dental appointment arranged, please give us a call (07) 3426 5777, so we can reschedule any non-emergency dental treatment.