Gingivostomatitis is an infection of the mouth. It commonly occurs in children, but it can affect adults too. Gingivostomatitis may be caused by a virus or bacteria — or it may be the result of poor oral hygiene. Treatments may include antibiotics or minor oral surgery.
Gingivostomatitis is a painful oral infection that can cause blisters on the lips and canker sores in the mouth. The condition is caused by a virus or bacteria. It’s often due to poor hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing enough. Gingivostomatitis is also called acute herpetic gingivostomatitis, herpetic gingivostomatitis and primary gingivostomatitis.
The condition most commonly affects young children. However, it can occur at any age.
Gingivostomatitis is quite common. Once infected, approximately 40% of children will develop recurring mouth sores and ulcers.
Symptoms of gingivostomatitis can vary, and they may be mild or severe. Signs may include:
Gingivostomatitis can develop due to certain viruses or bacteria. These include:
Keep in mind, the most common risk factor for gingivostomatitis is poor oral hygiene. To lower your risk, brush and floss every day and visit your dentist regularly.
In most cases, a person with gingivostomatitis is contagious for about seven days after the mouth sores appear. Before having close contact with anyone else, you should be fever-free for at least 24 hours.
Herpetic gingivostomatitis in adults is usually accompanied by mouth ulcers, fever, dry mouth and red, swollen or painful gums. While some warning signs can vary, they are typically the same symptoms that occur in children.
In many instances, gingivostomatitis can be diagnosed with a visual examination. Your healthcare provider will also ask about symptoms. In some cases, a culture or biopsy may be performed to confirm which type of bacteria or virus is causing the infection.
Gingivostomatitis treatment may include antibiotics to get rid of the infection and ease your symptoms. In some cases, the affected areas may need to be cleaned or debrided.
In addition to taking antibiotics, there are other things you can do at home to reduce pain and discomfort, For example:
To reduce your risk for gingivostomatitis:
To reduce your risk for HSV-1, avoid close personal contact with people who are infected. This includes kissing or sharing eating utensils.
Because symptoms can vary, some people may experience mild discomfort while others have severe pain. In most cases, mouth ulcers caused by gingivostomatitis heal in about two to three weeks.
A person with gingivostomatitis should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school. Additionally, mouth sores can be contagious for up to a week, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider when it’s safe to resume normal activities.
Any time you develop mouth sores along with a fever, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider. If your symptoms worsen or don’t respond to treatment within three weeks, you should ask your provider about next steps.
No, it's not a sexually transmitted infection. But it can be caused by HSV-1, which can occasionally cause genital herpes. Gingivostomatitis is typically passed from person to person from mouth-to-mouth contact, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils.
Gingivostomatitis usually doesn’t cause serious health problems, especially when treated promptly. But it can be very painful. People with gingivostomatitis should improve oral hygiene habits to avoid other related health problems, such as periodontal disease.
Gingivostomatitis is an oral infection inside the mouth that can result in mouth sores and ulcers. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It’s considered the first stage of gum (periodontal) disease.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Gingivostomatitis can be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are treatments to ease your symptoms and help you heal. Ask your dentist or healthcare provider for ways to reduce your risk and keep your mouth healthy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/03/2021.
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