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Mouth Sores

Posted on 11/4/2015 by Fariba Mutschler

There are many different types of sores in children’s mouths:

•  scratches
•  burns
•  erupting teeth
•  herpangina sores
•  canker sores
•  cold sores
•  cancer and other rare stuff

Let’s go through them one by one:

Sharp fingernails, toothbrushes, toys or rough food can cause scratches on the gums or palate (mouth roof). These scratches may either heal within a couple of days or turn into a canker sore (see below).

Either way, pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen work great to make scratches feel better. Warm salt water rinses are helpful also (if your child will tolerate the taste!).

Often I will notice a red spot on the roof of a child’s mouth and most of the time when I ask about it, it was caused by hot food. Hot pizza and hot drinks are very common causes.

An unfortunate cause of burns is holding aspirin in the mouth instead of swallowing it. Aspirin is very acidic and will cause chemical burns if not swallowed.

Prevention is the best treatment of burns. The next best is swallowing a pain reliever!

Erupting Teeth:
When teeth grow into the mouth, they travel in a sack of fluid. As the tooth gets close to the surface, the gums swell and can get chewed up – causing a purplish blood blister to form in the sack or a sore to develop on the surface.

There is really not much to do until the tooth comes all the way through but keep it clean and try some numbing gel.

The Coxsackie virus causes a fever and very small white spots on the very back of the palate. These will become sores that heal after a week or so. Just make your child comfortable with bland comfort food, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and fluids.

Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers):
Most parents know what a canker sore looks and feels like. You probably do not know that they are not caused by an infection but by an autoimmune reaction. They are always inside the mouth, not on the outside of the lip.

As mentioned before, a scratch can stimulate your immune system to over-react and start attacking your gums. Other things can start a canker sore:
•  citrus
•  coffee
•  chocolate
•  toothpaste soap
•  nuts
•  many others

Some people get a canker sore every once in a while, others get them continuously. They will eventually go away on their own after one to two weeks of really annoying pain.

There are medicines that numb and reduce inflammation. Ask your dentist for help if you get these regularly.

Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Virus):
The name Herpes makes most adults shiver with fear, but actually, almost everyone has been infected with this virus when they were very young and carry it for the rest of their lives.

I saw an eighteen month old girl from Milwaukie today who had dark red, swollen gums, bad breath, and a fever for the last day or so. When I looked at the top of her mouth, I saw several small sores.

This is almost certainly the first infection by Herpes simplex virus.

This virus will move to the nerve cells and live there for the rest of her life, occasionally coming out to cause a cold sore when she is stressed, exposed to sunlight, or eats certain trigger foods.

Cold sores on your lip are teeming with viruses and can infect any open wound. If you get the viruses in a cut on your finger, you will suffer extremely painful recurrences throughout the rest of your life.

Even worse, if you get it in your eye, you can eventually go blind.

Cancer and other rare stuff:
Children can get cancer in their mouths but, thankfully, it is extremely rare. Sores that do not heal after two weeks should be looked at by a dentist.

There are many other types of sores that are uncommon, so do not hesitate to see a dentist if a sore develops in your child’s mouth.
My daughter was a little nervous to have her dental work done but everyone in the office was super friendly and very reassuring and that helped her nervousness go away. Thanks for the excellent dental experience. ~ Lilyana G.

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Dr. Fariba Mutschler & Dr. Mark Mutschler have created this informative blog to help educate the community. If you like an article or the dental blog in general please use the share it button to post to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
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