Aphthous Stomatitis (Canker Sores)
What is aphthous stomatitis?
Aphthous stomatitis is an illness that causes small ulcers to appear in the mouth. They are usually inside the lips, on the cheeks, or on the tongue. Aphthous ulcers are also known as "canker sores."
What causes aphthous stomatitis?
The exact cause of this disease is not known. However, there are many factors that are thought to be involved with the development of canker sores, including:
Weakened immune system
Allergies to food, such as coffee, chocolate, cheese, nuts, and citrus fruits
Viruses and bacteria
Trauma to the mouth
Aphthous stomatitis is usually first seen in children and adolescents from the ages of 10 to 19 years. For about one-third of the children affected, lesions continue to reappear for years after the initial outbreak.
These ulcers are not contagious and cannot be spread from one child to another.
What are the signs and symptoms of aphthous stomatitis?
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of aphthous stomatitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:
Ulcers in the mouth. These are usually inside the lips, on the cheeks, or on the tongue
Ulcers that are covered with a yellow layer and have a red base
No fever present (in most cases)
Lesions usually heal in 7 to 14 days
Lesions tend to recur
How is aphthous stomatitis diagnosed?
Aphthous stomatitis is usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical exam of your child. The lesions are unique and are usually diagnosed simply on physical exam. In addition, your child's healthcare provider may order the following tests to help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes for the ulcers:
Cultures of the lesions
Biopsy of the lesion—taking a small piece of tissue from the lesion and examining it microscopically
Treatment for aphthous stomatitis
Specific treatment for aphthous stomatitis will be discussed with you by your child's healthcare provider based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment for aphthous stomatitis is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is not a viral or bacterial infection, antiviral medicines and antibiotics are ineffective. Treatment may include:
Increased fluid intake
Acetaminophen for any fever or pain
Proper oral hygiene
Topical medicines (to help decrease the pain of the ulcers)
Mouth rinses (to help ease the pain)
It is especially important for your child to avoid spicy, salty, or acidic foods, which may increase mouth irritation.