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image of hand foot and mouth disease rash

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and Oral Health

October 7, 2019

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that is contagious and common in young children. In fact, 90% of all individuals diagnosed with hand, foot, and mouth disease are children under the age of 5. Visible symptoms often include sores, or lesions, in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.

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

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue and feeling unwell
  • Red blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums, throat, and inside of the cheeks
  • Loss of appetite

When we’re dealing with a viral disease, we usually head over to our primary care doctor. But is there a reason to also visit the dentist if a virus affects the mouth?

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 period of communicability, or when the disease is contagious, 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 viral disease 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.”

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.

*It’s not recommended that children under the age of 18 use aspirin. It can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye 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 but avoid acid-containing juices, which can irritate mouth sores.

Many people look for a quick fix when it comes to hand, foot, and mouth disease, but rest and time are going to be the best aids.

What Role Can a Dentist Play When It Comes to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Since symptoms such as lesions and sores 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.