Just because a child is too young to have fully formed teeth doesn't mean they can't suffer from the same dental problems as fully grown adults -- indeed, some oral diseases tend to thrive in the mouths of children. One of these diseases is gingivostomatitis, a relatively little-known condition that can nonetheless cause serious problems for your child if left untreated, potentially causing permanent damage to the child's oral health at this vital stage of their development. Fortunately, treating gingivostomatitis is a relatively straightforward process, and paediatric dentists can do a great deal to speed healing and reduce the amount of pain and discomfort your child endures.
What is gingivostomatitis?
Gingivostomatitis manifests as general, widespread inflammation in your child's mouth, affecting both the gums and the mucosal membranes (the thin layer of skin that forms the lining of the mouth) in the mouth of an affected child. This inflammation can have a number of causes, ranging from bacterial infection to simple poor dental hygiene. It can also be caused by a form of the herpes simplex virus, the same virus which causes cold sores in adults.
What are the symptoms of gingivostomatitis?
Gingivostomatitis can affect the mouth in a number of ways both painful and distressing for your child:
- Inflammation: A mouth infected by gingivostomatitis appears red and swollen, and is usually tender and painful to the touch. This pain extends to even slight mouth movements, so you may notice that your child becomes unwilling or reluctant to eat, drink or speak. They may also have difficulty swallowing, posing a choking hazard.
- Ulcers: These resemble 'ordinary' canker sores, and can burst and scab over to add to your child's discomfort. They can appear on the cheeks, gums and tongue, and may bleed intermittently.
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
If your child exhibits a prolonged fever you should take them to a doctor as promptly as possible, as this may indicate that the infection has spread to other parts of the body.
How can gingivostomatitis be treated?
The first step of any effective gingivostomatitis treatment plan is to take your child to their dentist, who can generally diagnose the condition by simple inspection of the characteristic swelling and ulceration. However, they can perform simple saliva tests to determine the cause of the illness if your child is exhibiting more pronounced symptoms.
If the cause of your child's gingivostomatitis is determined to be bacterial in nature, the dentist may prescribe a short course of antibiotics to help clear up the infection more quickly. These can take the form of conventional tablets to be taken orally, but may also be used in mouthwash or topical gel form, which can be more useful for young children who may suffer stomach upsets when taking oral antibiotics. Gingivostomatitis caused by herpes simplex or other viral pathogens may also respond to antibiotic treatment; although, it is generally less effective.
However, antibiotics are of limited use and provide little benefit for children who are suffering as a result of poor dental hygiene. However, the good news is that most cases of gingivostomatitis clear up spontaneously, often within a matter of days or weeks. so your child's dentist's primary concern will be alleviating pain and discomfort until the symptoms pass. They can do this in a number of ways:
- Debridement: This involves removal of the infected top layer of tissue on the skin and gums and is generally carried out under a local anaesthetic to minimise pain. This treatment can significantly reduce pain and is particularly useful for removing ulcers, particularly ruptured ulcers prone to bleeding.
- Medicated mouthwashes: These can help to reduce pain and discomfort and are available both on prescription and over-the-counter; although, you should consult your dentist on whether they are safe to use prior to offering them to your child. Rinsing the mouth with a simple saltwater solution can also provide effective relief, but your child may be naturally reluctant to use them.
- Dental hygiene improvements: The dentist may also offer deep cleaning of your child's mouth, especially if your child is teething or the infection is localised in a specific area. However, if your child's gingivostomatitis was caused by poor dental hygiene then permanent improvements in their dental hygiene regimen must be made, to prevent the infection from returning. Your dentist can provide special soft-bristled toothbrushes to make teeth brushing more comfortable, and will inform both you and your child about ways they can keep their mouth cleaner.
For more information, contact a business such as Precision Dental Care @ Kingston.