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Common Gum Problems in Babies and Toddlers

cute baby smiling
Creative Commons image by
Guille Mueses

You may think of gum and tooth problems as an issue that affects mainly older adults. You are correct; periodontal disease, bone loss and similar issues are more common in adults than in children. Still, there are some gum problems that can affect young children, including babies and toddlers. If you have a young child or grandchild, take a look at the following issues to keep an eye out for.


Common in babies who are breastfed, oral thrush is uncomfortable for mom and baby, but not harmful or dangerous unless it impacts feeding or becomes infected. Signs include white, pearl-like clumps in the baby’s mouth and some minor rawness or bleeding when they are wiped away. Nursing moms can experience cracked, very painful nipples. In some cases, the cracks can become infected.

There are some natural treatments for thrush, some of which include applying vinegar to the nipples in between feeding and washing all bras in hot water. The easiest and most effective way to treat this, however, is with an antifungal medication. One common type is called Nystatin, and it’s applied to the mom’s nipples as well as to the baby’s mouth. If you suspect that your baby has thrush and you are breastfeeding, see your lactation consultant or pediatrician for treatment.

Gum Disease

Although most children do not have problems with their gums, a lack of good oral hygiene can lead to gingivitis, which is early-stage gum disease, in babies and toddlers. There are also some conditions that can make gum disease in babies more likely; these include type 1 diabetes, Down Syndrome and Kindler Syndrome. Symptoms of gum disease in young children are the same as in adults: puffy gums, redness, bleeding and sensitivity.

Once your baby’s teeth start coming in, it’s essential that you clean them regularly. For a small baby, wiping with a damp baby washcloth can be adequate. As more teeth come in, switch to an infant toothbrush and use fluoride-free toothpaste. Toothpaste containing fluoride can be started when the child turns two. Once there are two teeth adjacent to each other, use dental floss to clean gently between them. This type of regimen should prevent gum disease. If you are concerned, see your child’s dentist.

Sores or Blisters

There are several conditions that can cause sores or blisters in your baby’s mouth. One is that of canker sores. These are ulcers that can be quite painful. Some people are more prone to them than others, and trauma or acidic foods can exacerbate them.

Another is hand, foot and mouth disease. This is a viral illness that can cause blisters on the hands, feet and mouth. For most babies and toddlers, this simply has to run its course, but if you are concerned, your pediatrician can determine if your child needs further treatment.

It is important to keep an eye on what’s going on in your child’s mouth, particularly when they are too young to tell you if something is uncomfortable or painful. If you notice anything unusual, contact your dentist or pediatrician for advice.

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