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Over half of the population has the cold sore virus in their body. After the initial infection of this herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), it remains dormant in the body until a trigger reactivates it. Painful blisters develop around the lips which usually heal in a week’s time. Learn more about cold sores below and how they can affect dental care.


For many people, HSV-1 remains inactive in their body, causing no problems. However, others may experience reoccurrences of blistering cold sores around their lips if the virus is activated by a trigger like:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Hormone changes
  • Sunburn
  • Fatigue
  • Changes to the immune system


There is no cure for the cold sore virus, but the sores usually heal in a week and you can apply a topical anesthetic ointment for relief. A doctor or dentist may also prescribe an antiviral drug for more severe cases of cold sores. You can prevent HSV-1 from activating by using sunscreen, reducing stress, and boosting your immune system with diet and exercise.

Dental Care

Because cold sores develop near the mouth, they can affect dental care and procedures. If you develop cold sores before a dental appointment, contact your dentist’s office to see if you need to reschedule the procedure. This is done because:

  • The procedure can be very uncomfortable with the presence of cold sores, causing cracking and bleeding.
  • HSV-1 is a very contagious virus and may spread to your dentist and other patients.

Your dentist will determine whether you are still able to receive dental treatment or if you should reschedule for another time. This will depend on the severity of the sores and the dental treatment needed.