Gingivostomatitis is a common infection of
the mouth and gums. The primary symptoms are mouth or gum swelling, and lesions
in the mouth that resemble canker sores. This infection may be the result of a
viral or bacterial infection, and is often associated with improper care of
your teeth and mouth.
Gingivostomatitis is especially common among
children. Children with gingivostomatitis may drool and refuse to eat or drink
because of the discomfort (often severe) caused by the sores. They may also
develop fever and swollen lymph nodes.
Contact your doctor if:
- symptoms worsen or persist more
than a few days
- you or your child experience
fever or sore throat
- your child refuses to eat or
Are the Causes of Gingivostomatitis?
Gingivostomatitis may occur because of:
- herpes simplex virus type 1
(HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores
- coxsackie virus, a virus often
transmitted by touching a surface or an individual’s hand contaminated with
feces (this virus can also cause flu-like symptoms)
- certain bacteria (streptococcus,
- poor oral hygiene (not flossing
and brushing your teeth regularly)
Are the Symptoms of Gingivostomatitis?
Symptoms of gingivostomatitis can vary in
seriousness. You may feel minor discomfort, or experience severe pain and mouth
tenderness. Symptoms of gingivostomatitis may include:
- tender sores on the gums or
insides of cheeks (like canker sores, they are grayish or yellow on the outside
and red in the center)
- bad breath
- swollen, bleeding gums
- swollen lymph nodes
- drooling, especially in young
- a general feeling of being unwell
- difficulty eating or drinking due
to mouth discomfort; in children, a refusal to eat or drink
Is Gingivostomatitis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will check your mouth for sores, the
main symptoms of the condition. Additional tests are not usually necessary.
However, if other symptoms are also present (such as cough, fever, and muscle
pain), they may want to do additional tests.
In some cases, your doctor may take a culture
(swab) from the sore to check for bacteria (strep throat) or viruses. Your
doctor may remove a piece of skin to perform a biopsy if closer examination is
needed or if other suspicious mouth sores are also present.
Are the Treatments for Gingivostomatitis?
Gingivostomatitis sores usually disappear within
two to three weeks without treatment. For bacterial or viral-caused gingivostomatitis,
your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic and may also clean the infected area to
There are a number of actions you can take to
- Take any medications prescribed
by your doctor.
- Rinse your mouth with a medicated
mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide or xylocaine. These are readily available
at your local drugstore. You can also make your own by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of
salt in 1 cup of water.
- Eat a healthy diet, avoiding very
spicy, salty, or sour foods. These foods can sting or irritate the sores. Soft
foods may also be more comfortable to eat.
Over-the-counter pain relievers may also
help. Continue to brush your teeth and gums, even if it hurts. If you don’t
continue to practice good oral care, your symptoms could worsen and you’ll be
more likely to develop gingivostomatitis again in the future. Gently brushing
with a soft toothbrush will make brushing less painful.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1)
HSV-1 can lead to gingivostomatitis. This
virus usually isn’t serious, but it can cause complications in babies and those
with weakened immune systems.
The HSV-1 virus can also spread to the eye,
where it can infect the eye’s cornea. This condition is called herpes simplex
keratitis (HSK). Individuals should always wash their hands after touching a
cold sore, as the virus can easily spread to the eye. In addition to pain and
discomfort, HSK can cause permanent eye damage, even blindness. Symptoms of HSK
include watery, red eyes and sensitivity to light.
HSV-1 can also transfer to the genitals
through oral sex when mouth sores are present, although most cases of genital
herpes are due to HSV-2. Painful genital sores are the hallmark of HSV-2. It is
Decreased Appetite and Dehydration
Children with gingivostomatitis sometimes
refuse to eat or drink, which can eventually cause dehydration. Symptoms of
dehydration include a dry mouth, dry skin, dizziness, tiredness, and
constipation. Parents may notice that their child is sleeping more than usual
or isn’t interested in their usual activities.
Contact your doctor if your child has gingivostomatitis
and refuses to eat or drink.
to Prevent Gingivostomatitis
Taking care of your teeth and gums may
decrease your risk of getting gingivostomatitis. Good oral hygiene basics
- brushing your teeth at least
twice a day, especially after eating and before going to sleep
- flossing daily
- getting your teeth professionally
examined and cleaned by a dentist every six months
- keeping mouth pieces (dentures,
retainers, musical instruments) clean to prevent bacteria growth
Healthy gums are pink with no sores or
To avoid the HSV-1 virus that can cause gingivostomatitis,
avoid kissing or touching the face of an infected individual. Do not share
makeup, razors, or silverware with an infected person.
Frequently washing your hands is the best way
to avoid the coxsackie virus. This is especially important after using public
toilets or changing a baby’s diaper and before eating or preparing meals. It’s
important to educate children about the importance of proper hand washing to
avoid getting sick.
Is the Outlook for Gingivostomatitis?
Gingivostomatitis can be a mild nuisance, or
it can be painful and very uncomfortable. Generally, sores heal in two to three
weeks. Treating the bacteria or virus with the appropriate antibiotics or
antiviral agents may help to expedite healing. Home care treatments can also
help with the symptoms.