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Gums

In Infants
Infants’ gums can have multiple little bumps: some white, some purplish, none of clinical significance. An amateur tooth hunter can easily confuse these bumps with new teeth about to bust through, so you’ll need to inspect carefully before you claim Lucy is cutting a tooth.

Another condition you may encounter in Lucy’s mouth is thrush, a mild fungal infection wherein white curd-like deposits appear on the gums, inner cheeks, and tongue [See: Thrush].

Many books and Web sites devoted to child care tell you to clean infants’ gums carefully with gauze pads. They also give beautiful lectures on why oral hygiene is very important for babies. But none of them tell you what you accomplish by rubbing the gums. Sorry, I can’t answer that question either, since I don’t see any benefit to it. And the kids? Babies hate having their gums rubbed with gauze. So until somebody gives me a valid reason, I’ll continue to advise parents: Leave those gums alone.

In Children
Canker sores are circular white lesions in the mouth or on the tongue. They can be painful, but they don’t produce a fever. Lucy may get one or several, but they probably won’t last longer than four days. If she finds eating difficult, try cold foods and liquids, which may go down more easily. In extreme cases, pain medication may be required.

Many childhood illnesses affect the gums with blisters and sores, the most common of which are the Coxsackie viruses and oral herpes [See: Coxsackie; Herpes of the Mouth]. These lesions can be even more painful than canker sores and can interfere with eating or drinking.