LASER is an Acronym
No more unpleasant dental experiences. With laser dentistry the screech of the drill, painful injections and general discomfort can be a thing of the past. Dental lasers can be used for everything from dental surgery to aesthetic tooth bleaching. Learn more about how the benefits of dental laser therapy can make your visit to the dentist more pleasant.
Aphthae (or canker sores) are ulcers that are typically round or oval and occur on the inside of the lips or underneath the tongue. They are very common and affect between 30-60% of the population. The cause of aphthae is still uncertain but hereditary factors are certainly significant with approximately 40% of people who get them having a family history of aphthae. The main causes of aphthous ulcers include: emotional stress and lack of sleep, local injury by an accidental self-inflicted bite, nutritional/vitamin deficiencies (especially iron and folic acid, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and vitamin C), the menstrual cycle and certain foods (including coffee and chocolate). Aphthae can be divided into three types of ulcers.
Recurrent minor ulcers amount for over 80% of aphthae cases. These are usually between 1-10mm in diameter and heal spontaneously within 7-10 days. Recurrent major ulcers can be in excess of 10mm in diameter and can take months to heal. When they do the usually leave a scar behind. Herpetiform ulcers are multiple, clustered ‘pin-prick’ ulcers that usually occur on the tongue and can take up to a month to heal. Usually numbering between 2-10 they can number as many as 100. In all cases, but especially with recurrent major ulcers, the sores can be painful, particularly if irritated by certain foods.
The herpes simplex virus is very common and can cause painful blisters and sores almost anywhere on a persons body. However infections are most common around the mouth and the genitals. Consequently herpes can be divided into two types: type 1 and type 2. Herpes Simplex Type-1 (Herpes Labials, also known as Cold Sores) : It is estimated that between 60% and as many as 95% of people are infected with HSV-1 although only between 10-30% of these will develop recurrent oral-facial herpes infections. Most people catch the virus during childhood from close contact with family or friends who carry the virus. The virus can be transmitted by kissing, or by using glasses, cups and eating utensils or towels used by an infected person.
The main symptom of HSV-1 infection is the outbreak of blisters filled with fluid around the lips or nose. These can be painful and itchy. Other flu-like symptoms may accompany these outbreaks including fever, headache, muscles aches, and tiredness. Usually the blisters will disappear by themselves within ten days but the virus will remain dormant in the body among clusters of nerve cells until the next outbreak is triggered. Common triggers include: illness, stress, fatigue and menstruation. Many people are able to tell when an outbreak is going to occur because they notice a tingling sensation (known as the prodome stage). It is also at this stage when a person is particularly contagious. There is no cure for aphthae. Treatment consists of different medications to reduce the pain and discomfort they cause and to promote/accelerate the healing process. Such medications include: local anaesthetic gels to reduce the pain, antibacterial mouthwashes, protective pastes and in extreme cases sufferers may be prescribed topical corticosteroids.
There is also no cure for herpes simplex. However, traditional treatment involves the use of anti-viral drugs such as Acylovir. Acylovir has been shown to help speed up the infection cycle hastening the end of the outbreak. If used in the prodome stage it can also prevent the development of blisters and it has also been shown to reduce the number of future outbreaks. Studies have shown that patients who have their aphthae treated by laser therapy have immediate pain relief, faster healing and fewer recurrences in the future. The application of laser energy to a person with HSV-1 equally has significant effects. If applied during the prodormal period nearly all patients will heal within the first 48 hours. In later stages (blistering or crust) over 90% will be cured within 48 hours and all by 4 days. In most cases between 2-4 treatments with laser energy will be required. In addition studies reveal that patients that have laser therapy for the treatment of herpes also see fewer recurrences when compared to conventional treatments.