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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 1, 2023.

What is gingivostomatitis (GS)?

GS is a condition that causes painful sores on the lips, tongue, gums, and inside the mouth. GS is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus spreads easily from person to person through saliva or shared objects. The sores usually heal within 2 weeks with treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of GS?

  • Sores, ulcers, or blisters in your mouth
  • Irritated gums
  • Sore throat
  • Fever, headache, fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or swollen lymph glands

How is GS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. GS is usually diagnosed based on the exam. Your healthcare provider may rub a cotton swab over your sores. This sample may show the herpes simplex virus.

How is GS treated?

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Numbing medicine helps decrease pain from your mouth sores. This medicine is usually a liquid that you swish in your mouth and then spit out.
  • Antiviral medicine helps treat a viral infection.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times each day. Floss at least 1 time each day. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit properly.
  • Drink liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. It is important to drink liquids even though your mouth is sore. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. You may need to eat bland foods until your pain gets better. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Do not eat spicy, dry, hard, or acidic foods, such as oranges.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause mouth and lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your fever or other symptoms return after treatment.
  • You are urinating less than usual.
  • Your mouth sores are draining pus or blood.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.