Gingivostomatitis: Causes, Symptoms, Complications & Treatment

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis in Children

Children are susceptible to various bacterial and viral infections in their lives, some more often than not. Just like a cough and cold, having a sore mouth or ulcers can occur due to a variety of reasons. However, if it is more severe than usual and hurts more than a usual ulcer might, there is a chance your child might have contracted the gingivostomatitis virus.

What is Gingivostomatitis?

This long and complicated name is given to a disease that infects the gums and mouth of the child. If children fail to take proper care of their teeth, do not brush well, or rinse their mouths, viral and bacterial infections can cause this disease to take place. A strong reason to cause primary herpetic gingivostomatitis is the presence of the virus, HSV-1, that results in sores inside the mouth as well.

Gingivostomatitis Causes

  • The primary culprit in causing this disease to occur is the herpes simplex virus type 1, which is also named as HSV-1. All the sores you see in the mouth are usually caused by this virus.
  • Another virus that is responsible for this disease is the coxsackievirus. Majorly present in unclean hands or surfaces, especially having faeces and unhygienic conditions around, this virus finds its home there and transmits easily.
  • Typical bacteria that infect children generally, such as actinomyces and streptococcus, can also cause these conditions to appear.
  • Overall, if dental hygiene and a general cleanliness of the mouth is not maintained, the viruses and bacteria find it easy to infect the child.

Gingivostomatitis Symptoms

  • Tiny sores, having a diameter as small as 1mm and as large as 5mm, can be observed in the mouth. These are usually red coloured towards the outer edges and dark in the centre.
  • Most areas of the mouth such as the inner portion of the cheeks, the surface of the gums, and the back portion of the mouth are all covered in sores.
  • There is substantial inflammation of the gums and, in some cases, bleeding can be observed as well.
  • The sores cause tremendous pain in the mouth in every area present.
  • The child may have a high fever as the body is trying to combat the external infection.
  • With sores and infection present in the mouth, your child may have bad breath, too.
  • The lymph nodes surrounding the neck can be swollen to quite some degree.
  • If the case is severe, the child’s eyes might get too sensitive to light and even get watery to a large degree.
  • The tendency of drooling in the mouth increases more than usual.
  • The pain and discomfort in the mouth cause reduced appetite and refusal to eat or drink.

Diagnosis of Gingivostomatitis in Kids

Diagnosing gingivostomatitis is pretty straightforward since the signs and symptoms of it are pretty evident and can easily be spotted. The doctor will first check your child’s mouth for sores and observe their appearance. Checking for a fever will be another way to make the diagnosis better. If there are other conditions such as intense coughing or body ache, there might be chances of other diseases being present, too. A blood test might be recommended in such cases along with taking a swab from the mouth to check for bacteria culture. In extreme cases, doctors tend to take a skin sample from the mouth to check for the presence of other types of sores.



Given that the primary culprit in most cases of gingivostomatitis is the HSV -1, or herpes simplex virus type 1, it is necessary to understand how the virus might take the infection further within the body.

For healthy babies, the virus stays pretty much where it is. If your baby has weak immunity, the virus can spread further within the body. One of the conditions that such a scenario may cause is termed as herpes simplex keratitis or HSK. This is where the virus makes it way to the eyes and directly starts infecting the cornea. This can easily damage the eye permanently in a variety of ways, and may even lead to blindness. The sensitivity to light, watery eyes and red colour in the eye are strong indicators of the onset of HSK.

While taking care of the child and touching the sores, if the hands are not cleaned properly and the child is handled, there are chances of infection reaching the genital area as well, leading to a specific type of genital herpes.

With immense about of pain and discomfort in the mouth, most children don’t feel like eating or drinking anything at all. This can lead to a reduced appetite and dehydration in the body. The mouth will start getting dry as well as the skin. With no food in the body, your child may feel constantly tired and dizzy at times, or even suffer from constipation. At times, he may tend to sleep for a lot longer than usual.


Since gingivostomatitis is a viral infection, the usual method of administering antibiotics will not work on your child, unless there are bacterial sores present as well. Most sores disappear in a couple of weeks or so, even whether the disease is left untreated. For proper relief from the symptoms, certain treatment measures need to be undertaken.

Herpetic Gingivostomatitis Treatment

  • Since the sores just fade away gradually, it is important that the diet the child consumes does not counteract it. Refrain from giving any food items that have a strong flavour, or are sour and spicy. Such items will interact with the sores, causing them to be irritated and start hurting again. Go for a liquid diet with soft food items.
  • The disease can be completed treated only when the prescribed medication is taken consistently without fail. Make sure no doses are skipped throughout the phase.
  • It is important to keep high oral hygiene of the child. Supervise the child when he brushes the teeth. If the pain is still evident, replace the usual brush with one having soft bristles.
  • Certain doctors may recommend rinsing the mouth using a mouthwash, which contains hydrogen peroxide. This is for medicinal purposes and helps maintain a clean mouth.


  • Brushing teeth twice a day reduces chances of orolabial herpes in children.
  • Flossing teeth gets rid of any food particle stuck between the teeth, keeping the mouth clean.
  • Get a dental checkup done twice a year to ensure everything is fine.
  • If your child plays a musical instrument with his mouth, ensure he rinses his mouth after he’s done playing.

Gingivostomatitis in toddlers is extremely painful for them and a troublesome time for parents as well. Although treatment techniques are present, preventive measures are the easiest form of mitigating any risks from such infection from happening at all.

Also Read: Teeth Grinding in Kids

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