Disorders of the Mouth
•Aphthous stomatitis (canker sores). A common form of mouth ulcer, canker sores occur in women more often than in men. Although their cause isn’t completely understood, mouth injuries, stress, dietary deficiencies, hormonal changes (such as the menstrual cycle), or food allergies can trigger them. They usually appear on the inner surface of the cheeks or lips, under the tongue, on the soft palate, or at the base of the gums. They begin with a tingling or burning sensation followed by a painful sore called an ulcer. Pain subsides in 7 to 10 days, with complete healing usually occurring in 1 to 3 weeks.
•Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects in which the tissues of the lip and/or mouth don’t form properly during fetal development. Children born with these disorders may have trouble feeding immediately after birth. Reconstructive surgery in infancy and sometimes later can repair the anatomical defects, and can prevent or lessen the severity of speech problems later on.
•Enteroviral stomatitis is a common childhood infection caused by a family of viruses called the enteroviruses. An important member of this family is coxsackievirus, which causes hand, foot, and mouth disease. Enteroviral stomatitis is marked by small, painful ulcers in the mouth that may decrease a child’s desire to eat and drink and put him or her at risk for dehydration.
•Herpetic stomatitis (oral herpes). Kids can get a mouth infection with the herpes simplex virus from an adult or another child who has it. The resulting painful, clustered vesicles, or blisters, can make it difficult to drink or eat, which can lead to dehydration, especially in a young child.
•Periodontal disease. The gums and bones supporting the teeth are subject to disease. A common periodontal disease is gingivitis — inflammation of the gums characterized by redness, swelling, and sometimes bleeding. The accumulation of tartar (a hardened film of food particles and bacteria that builds up on teeth) usually causes this condition, and it’s almost always the result of inadequate brushing and flossing. When gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to periodontitis, in which the gums loosen around the teeth and pockets of bacteria and pus form, sometimes damaging the supporting bone and causing tooth loss.