Sore no more

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They should be called "cranky" sores, those irritating, burning lesions on the inside of your mouth. For anyone whose patience has been tried while waiting for her canker sore to disappear, a special laser offers painless, almost immediate relief.

Called the Nd: YAG laser, it recently received FDA clearance to treat canker sores. Untreated, these sores generally subside in a week or two-but not before inflaming your temper and mouth, and disrupting your eating habits.

The Nd: YAG laser could change all that. (Nd: YAG refers to the crystal that produces the beam of light.) To treat canker sores, a dentist passes the laser over the infected area several times. That's it. You'll feel a slightly warm sensation, but nothing else, not even, in many cases, the pain and discomfort that initially brought you there.

Scientists aren't exactly sure how the laser works on canker sores, but one thing is clear: It doesn't actually cure the condition. One study found the laser provided immediate relief for 63% of the people who had canker sores. Half of the 21 people reported faster healing and no recurrence within six months. Of those who did have recurrences, 75% reported the sores to be less severe.

"Get treatment as soon as you feel a sore coming on," says Frederick Parkins, DDS, an expert on lasers at the University of Louisville, KY, and author of the study. If you catch one at the tingling or burning stage-before it turns into that raw sore inside your mouth-you may be able to prevent the ulcer from ever forming.

To find a member dentist in your area who uses an Nd: YAG laser, leave a message with the Academy of Laser Dentistry at 1-810-548-7171, or write to them at 10435 Vernon Ave., Huntington Woods, MI 48070.

Lip tip

Since cold sores frequently appear on the lips after exposure to intense sunlight, be extra vigilant about using sun protection (a hat with a wide brim plus lip protection with sunblock is best) during outdoor activities like going to the beach and hiking.

PHOTO (COLOR): Woman eating corn

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By Yun Lee Wolfe

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