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What is Gingivostomatitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is Gingivostomatitis?

Gingivostomatitis is an extremely contagious infection that occurs in the mouth characterized by development of blisters and sores that are quite painful. The mode of transmission of Gingivostomatitis is by way of saliva or coming in contact with one of the sores or lesions. Gingivostomatitis is commonly seen in children under the age of 5 but at times even adults can get this infection. The symptoms of Gingivostomatitis are more severe in adults than in children. Gingivostomatitis is primarily caused by the herpes simplex virus, a virus that is also responsible for cold sores.[2]

It should be mentioned here that there are other factors as well which play a role in the development of mouth sores such as that seen with Gingivostomatitis. These factors include viruses other than herpes to include enterovirus, bacteria, allergies, exposure to certain chemicals. Some people who tend to develop blisters in the mouth as a result of radiation and chemotherapy done for treatment of cancer.[2]

What is Gingivostomatitis?

Studies estimate that almost 90% of people around the world are exposed to the herpes simplex virus by the time they cross the third decade of life. The virus when activated causes the symptoms seen with Gingivostomatitis. There is no racial or geographic preference with regard to this condition and any one from any topographical area and ethnicity can get Gingivostomatitis.[1]

What Causes Gingivostomatitis?

As stated, the primary cause of Gingivostomatitis is exposure to the herpes simplex virus type-1. It is estimated that close to 90% of cases of this condition are caused due to this virus. However, it can also be caused due to infection caused by the coxsackievirus. Poor dental health and hygiene habits also play a vital role in contracting an infection like Gingivostomatitis.[2]

In adults, there have been some cases of Gingivostomatitis caused by the herpes simplex-2 virus which is basically responsible for causing genital herpes. This happens due to the saliva coming in contact with an infected area in the genitals. People who have a known diagnosis of HIV or have a compromised immune system also get Gingivostomatitis due to HSv-2 virus.[2]

What are the Symptoms of Gingivostomatitis?

A person with Gingivostomatitis will experience the following symptoms

  • Persistent pain around the gums and mouth
  • Swelling of the gums
  • Visible blisters or sores around the gums, lips, cheeks, tongue, and roof of the mouth.
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fever
  • Foul odor from the mouth[2]

There are some cases of Gingivostomatitis where the patient may have a general sense of being unwell and malaise before the actual sores develop. The pain and discomfort due to the lesions in the mouth make it tough for patients to eat or drink. This is seen especially in children. This is the reason why children with Gingivostomatitis may have a significantly reduced oral intake.[2]

Thus it is important for parents to monitor the fluid intake of such children to prevent dehydration. It is best to adhere to soft diet and avoiding any citrus fruits and carbonated beverages.[2]

How is Gingivostomatitis Diagnosed?

For diagnosing Gingivostomatitis, the physician will first take as detailed history of the patient. This will include any history of being in contact with anyone infected with a herpes virus. A careful inspection of the patient’s mouth will then be conducted which will include the gums tongue, and roof of the mouth. The lesions or blisters then will be examined.[2]

In majority of the cases, a close observation of the lesions is good enough to confirm a diagnosis of Gingivostomatitis. In some cases, the physician may take a swab and send it for further analysis to confirmatively diagnose Gingivostomatitis.[2]

How is Gingivostomatitis Treated?

The primary aim of treatment for Gingivostomatitis is to calm down the pain and discomfort and eliminating the infection. For this, the physician may provide pain medications to treat the pain. To get rid of the virus, antiviral in the form of acyclovir will be prescribed. Studies suggest that use of acyclovir cuts down the duration of the symptoms by more than 50% in most cases. Additionally, the sores healed much faster with use of Acyclovir than otherwise. It was also observed that patients, especially children were able to return to normal diet much quicker after use of this medication.[2]

While the symptoms are at their peak, physicians recommend rinsing the mouth regularly with salt water or use medicated mouthwash for faster healing of the sores.

Regular intake of fluid is also quite helpful in treating the sores quickly. With regard to diet, it is best to eat a bland diet with mashed bananas or oatmeal so that not much discomfort is experienced while eating.[2]

In most cases, people do not require any aggressive treatment for Gingivostomatitis. The sores heal on their own within a couple of weeks even though the chances of them recurring are quite high, especially in children.[2]

It is also recommended to stay away from an infected person as the infection spreads quite rapidly through saliva or by touching the sores. Thus, children with Gingivostomatitis should be kept away from toys and other household items so as to prevent others from contracting the infection.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 8, 2020

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