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Mouth Lesions in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a mouth lesion?

A mouth lesion is damaged tissue that may have a change in normal color. It may look like an ulcer, a raised bump, or sore. Your child may have one or more mouth lesions that may be painful.

What causes a mouth lesion?

The cause of your child's lesion may be unknown. A mouth lesion may be caused by trauma from biting the inside of the mouth or brushing teeth and gums too hard. It may also be caused by a retainer or braces that rub against parts of the mouth. A viral, bacterial, or fungal infection can also cause a mouth lesion. Mouth lesions may be a side effect of certain medicines.

How is a mouth lesion diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask when you or your child noticed the lesion and if the lesion's appearance has changed. The provider will also ask if your child has any other symptoms such as a fever, headaches, or chills. Blood tests may show if your child is at higher risk for mouth lesions. Your child's healthcare provider may rub a cotton swab on one of the lesions and check it under a microscope. A sample of a lesion may be sent to a lab for tests.

How is a mouth lesion treated?

Your child's mouth lesion may go away on its own. Tell your child's healthcare provider about any medicines your child takes. Treatment depends on the cause of your child's lesion. If an infection has caused the mouth lesion, medicine be needed to treat it. Your child may also need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. 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 your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • A mouth rinse, gel, or spray may be given to relieve pain. A mouth rinse may be given to help keep your child's mouth clean, or to prevent infection.

How can I manage my child's mouth lesion?

  • Encourage your child to clean his or her mouth regularly. Your child should brush his or her teeth, gums, and tongue after he or she eats and before bed. He or she should use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Encourage your child to drink liquids and eat regular meals. Mouth lesions can be painful and make it hard for your child to eat and drink. Your child should continue to drink liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her. Your child should also eat regular meals. Do not give your child food or drinks that irritate the mouth lesion. These include drinks or foods that are spicy, salty, or acidic. Examples include orange juice, lemonade, potato chips, or oranges.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has severe mouth pain that is preventing him or her from eating or drinking.
  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration such as the following:
    • Dark urine or urinating little or not at all
    • Dry mouth and lips
    • Crying without tears

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • The mouth lesion gets larger.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child develops new symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, a rash, or joint pain.
  • Your child regularly has mouth lesions.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.