Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and Oral Health

Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is most common in children under the age of 5.

If you’re a parent, you likely know the signs of hand, foot, and mouth disease all too well. It starts when your child comes home complaining of a sore throat, then you notice a red rash on their hands and feet paired with a fever and some toddler-like irritability. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection and it’s easily passed between young kids through toys, tabletops and doorknobs. In fact, 90% of all individuals diagnosed with hand, foot, and mouth disease are children under the age of 5.

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue and feeling unwell
  • Red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums, throat, and inside of the cheeks
  • A red rash that doesn’t itch
  • Loss of appetite

When we’re dealing with a virus, we usually head over to our primary care doctor. But is there a reason to also visit the dentist when symptoms appear in the mouth?

What role can a dentist play in treating hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Since symptoms such as lesions and sores often start in the mouth, your dentist can diagnose hand, foot, and mouth disease during a routine check-up. Otherwise, a viral infection such as this does not generally require an added trip to the dentist. Your primary care physician may recommend a dentist visit if they see fit. The first step is to contact your primary care doctor for their professional advice.

How do you get rid of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Unfortunately, there are no cures or vaccines for this disease. Doctors recommend treating the symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, depending on the age of the patient. Remember, it’s not recommended that children under the age of 18 use aspirin. It can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Give your child cold, soft foods such as smoothies to help reduce discomfort in the mouth and throat. Good hand washing is necessary to help prevent the spread of the disease, which is most common in the summer and fall. Additionally, offer your child plenty of fluids. Avoid giving your child acidic juices, like orange juice, because they can irritate mouth sores.

Many people look for a quick fix for this disease, but plenty of rest, frequent hand washing, and time are going to be the best aids.

How long does hand, foot, and mouth disease last?

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease can clear up in about a week. In rare cases, it can last as long as two weeks. The contagious period usually lasts a week or less.

You can tell that the virus is clearing up when the fever subsides and the sores in the mouth have healed. This is most likely after the period of being contagious is over. In most cases, our own immune system clears up this virus in about 7–10 days.

According to Delta Dental’s vice president of dental science, Dr. Joe Dill, “While the mouth sores can be painful, there really is no treatment other than palliative, or simply just providing relief of the symptoms. I would stay away from any oral rinses that “anesthetize” (make numb) the mouth as those can cause more harm than good. It’s just a 7-10-day viral outbreak which will pass with no permanent damage to the mouth.”

Want to learn more about the connection between the mouth and body? Click here.

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