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Herpes simplex gingivostomatitis

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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The incidence of herpes simplex mouth infections is highest in preschool children:

  • initial infection of primary herpetic gingivostomatitis (PHG) primarily affects children under 10 years of age with a peak incidence at 2-4 years of age, and secondarily young adults, aged 15 to 25 years (1,2)

Incubation period of HSV infection ranges approximately 3 to 10 days.

Presentation is usually with an acute gingivostomatitis characterised by:

  • pain on eating and drinking
  • high fever
  • may be bleeding from gums
  • extensive ulceration of the tongue, palate and buccal mucosa
    • widespread inflammation in the marginal and attached gingiva, and small clusters of vesicles throughout the mouth.
    • vesicles often coalescence and burst, forming large ulcers
  • cervical gland enlargement
  • dehydration due to refusal to eat or drink

PHG is a contagious disease that usually regresses spontaneously within 12 to 20 days.

Click here for an example image of this condition


  1. Main, D. M. G. (1989) Acute herpetic stomatitis: referrals to Leeds Dental Hospital 1978-1987. Br Dent J 166, 1416.
  2. Oh TJ et al (2002). Periodontal diseases in the child and adolescent.J Clin Periodontol. 2002 May;29(5):400-10

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