As our children grow, we encounter all sorts of ailments, injuries, and infections we never knew existed, some with complicated names like Herpetic Gingivostomatitis, an infection of the mouth that occurs mostly in young children and is related to the herpes simplex virus.

Despite its long name, however, Herpetic Gingivostomatitis isn’t a complicated ailment, but it is one with which parents of young children should be familiar.

What is it?

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis (HG) is a contagious mouth infection that generally marks a child’s first exposure to the herpes simplex virus. The risk of contracting (HG) can be increased by poor oral hygiene such as not brushing enough or efficiently. HG is a very uncomfortable infection, especially for little ones, as it causes blisters to occur, generally on the tongue, lips, gums, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth. After the blisters pop, equally-as-painful ulcers can form. Children may also experience a high fever, which usually occurs before the blisters appear.

How will it affect my child?

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis is a painful experience for little ones and can make parents frantic as well. One of the main side effects of the infection is that it makes it very uncomfortable for children to eat and drink. Therefore, those affected become very irritable because they’re hungry and can become dehydrated from lack of fluids as well. You might also notice swelling around the mouth and excessive drooling, too.

How should it be treated?

There isn’t a cure for Herpetic Gingivostomatitis or a magic potion to make it go away. Mostly, parents can take steps to address the symptoms of the infection and perhaps speed up the recovery a bit. Anti-viral drugs like acyclovir, which has a good record of treating herpes simplex-related viruses, might be prescribed for the child. Oral rinses and analgesics can be offered to help ease the pain so that children can remain properly hydrated while afflicted with the infection.

If the child is able to eat and drink, it’s best to avoid hot, spicy, or salty foods and beverages as they will aggravate the condition. Though it can be painful, teeth brushing must continue in order to address bacteria in the mouth and to hasten recovery and prevent reinfection.

Can I catch Herpetic Gingivostomatitis?

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis is contagious and it’s easy for children to pass it to one another if they’re prone to doing things like sharing food, drinks, and utensils with each other. Kissing can also prompt spread of the infection. Because little ones often put toys in their mouths, the sharing of these playthings should be off limits during any outbreak as well.

Most cases of Herpetic Gingivostomatitis go away in about 2 weeks but, unfortunately, once a child develops this infection, they also become more prone to developing recurring mouth sores and ulcers. As a matter of fact, studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that about 40% of kids who’ve had HG will be plagued by ulcers and sores during their lifetime, including in adulthood.

The best way to avoid developing this infection is to tend closely to your young child’s dental health. Help them brush regularly until they are able to do it unsupervised and bring them to the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. If your older child wears a retainer, be sure it is
cleaned regularly as should be the case with any dental appliance that is regularly taken in and out of the mouth.

If you have any other questions about Herpetic Gingivostomatitis please call us at (907)562-1003 to set up an appointment with one of our board certified pediatric dentists.

Dr. Easte Warnick DDS

Dr. Easte Warnick received a degree in Geology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2001. After working as a geologist for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Bechtel SAIC, she returned to school and completed dental training at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in 2012.

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