Herpes the Misunderstood Disease
The dentist is the oral health expert. Dental Healthcare Professionals understand how the health of teeth, gums and mouth relate to general overall health.
One serious link with oral health is the “Common Cold Sore”. 30% -40% of all dental patients have cold sores an average of three to four times a year, many having much more depending on what triggers their outbreaks.
Contrary to common perceptions, cold sores are not a trivial condition. The cold sore virus is especially contagious due to the sores weeping fluids saturated with the virus. An active cold sores causes pain, irritation and itching, often resulting in the patient touching or scratching at the lesion. While touching the cold sore these virus saturated fluids are easily picked up by the hands or spread to other people through physical contact.
Patients should never touch a cold sore and then rub their eyes. The cold sore virus is the leading cause of non-impact blindness in the United States; a condition known as Herpes Keratitis. 1.5 million new cases occur each year, with 40,000 of them resulting in the loss of sight. The cold sore virus an also spread to other parts of the body in a condition knows Herpes Whitlow.
Dental professionals are at an elevated risk of contracting Herpes Whitlow and should never touch an active cold sore. In one specific case a dental professional who was working on a patient with and active cold sore contracted Herpes Whitlow while scratching an itch on her neck even though she was properly gloved and masked. In another case, Herpes Whitlow was contracted by a hygienist when using an ultrasonic scaler which aerosolized the virus and contaminated her eye, resulting in Keratitis.
In a surprising recently published clinical study, the cold sore virus has been shown to significantly accelerate the replication of HIV Aids virus. In addition, links have also been identified between the cold sore virus and the onset of Alzheimer’s and about 1250 incidents of Encephalitis, also caused by the cold sore virus, occur each year which can cause severe mental impairment in new born infants.
Medications are available to help shorten the duration of the virus and some even work to help prevent an outbreak. Discuss these treatments with your dentist. If you have an active lesion at the time of your dental appointment please inform your dental professional. They may wish to reschedule your appointment to another time.