From newborn to toddler, your child is sure to develop a mouth problem at some point. Here we explain the different conditions and how to treat them.
Thrush is most common in babies under two months, but it can affect older babies as well.
It appears as white to cream-coloured patches on the insides of the lips and cheeks and on the tongue. When there is a white coating on the tongue alone it is more likely to be simple milk residue.
Babies with thrush often go off their food as feeding can make their mouths sore. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by an organism candida albicans which is naturally present in our bodies and doesn't normally cause problems.
A young baby's immature immune system means they are less able to fight the infection. Antibiotics can cause thrush so if a baby is on antibiotics, or the mother is taking antibiotics while breastfeeding the baby can become infected.
If a baby has thrush the infection can spread to the mother's nipples making them cracked and sore. Thrush can also pass from the baby's mouth to the anus, causing a spotty nappy rash.
It's not known if it is possible to prevent thrush in babies. However, it makes sense to ensure that dummies, teething toys, breast pump parts and (if bottle feeding) teats are regularly sterilised.
Good hand hygiene is also important, especially after changing your baby's nappy. In mild cases the infection clears up within a few days, but more severe cases can take up to two weeks.
If you suspect your baby has thrush, particularly if you are also experiencing itchy, burning nipples or if your baby seems reluctant to feed, go and see your paediatrician.
If thrush is diagnosed your baby will be prescribed an oral antifungal treatment. If you are having symptoms of nipple thrush, you will also be prescribed treatment. As your baby grows and the immune system matures she will be less likely to get thrush in her mouth.
A crop of mouth ulcers in children between the ages of 1-5 years old is most commonly caused by the herpes simplex virus. The ulcers appear as tiny, flat, yellowish/white spots anywhere in the mouth or on the tongue.
Ulcers can be very sore and can prevent your child from eating or drinking properly and can take up to two weeks to clear completely.
The first infection is always much more severe than subsequent infections which will appear as a simple 'cold sore' around the nose or lips.
These occur from time to time and especially if a child is rundown for any reason, for example, if they have a cold. The name 'cold sore' is confusing though, as the sore is not caused by a cold, but by the herpes simplex virus.
Rarely a newborn baby will contact the herpes simplex infection. This can be serious as the virus can cause an inflammation of the brain and requires urgent medical treatment.
It is important to keep the child well hydrated and, because mouth ulcers are contagious, you need to pay particular attention to hygiene by washing hands and keeping your child’s towels and face cloths separate from others.
Try feeding the child soft foods and drinks through a straw until the discomfort eases.
A cleft lip is a split in the upper lip just under the nose, and a cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth – the palate. Often both the lip and palate are affected.
1 in around 700 babies is born with a cleft lip or palate* and while it is obviously distressing to the parents, it is correctable by surgery.
The exact cause is unknown and although there is a hereditary element to the condition with it being more common in some families than others, it is thought environmental factors also play a part.
Approximately half of all affected babies are born with a cleft lip and palate, a third have a cleft palate only, and one in ten have a cleft lip only*.
The split occurs during the first trimester as the development of the face and the upper lip takes place during the fifth to ninth week of pregnancy.
A cleft lip and palate is corrected using surgery. The procedure has a high success rate and leaves minimal scarring. After treatment, most children have a normal appearance and achieve normal speech.
Treatment for cleft lip and palate are available in Indiaand you should speak to your paediatrician for more information. You could also contact Indian Society of Cleftlip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies to get support for any child born with the condition.
Around one in ten babies is born with a tighter-than-normal piece of skin (frenulum) between the underside of their tongue and the floor of their mouth*. This is known as tongue-tie, while the medical name is ankyloglossia.
It can sometimes affect your baby's feeding, making it hard for them to attach properly to the breast. If you're concerned about your baby's feeding and think they may have tongue-tie, speak to your doctor.
Tongue-tie doesn't always cause problems. Sometimes, the skin anchoring the tongue may be so thin that it soon breaks and neither the parent nor baby is ever aware it existed.
If the tongue movement is restricted and the problem is not resolved as the child grows older she may have trouble speaking and eating.
Snipping the skin to free up the tongue is known as tongue-tie division or frenuloplasty. It is a simple and painless procedure with little or no blood loss.
In young babies, division of tongue-tie is usually performed without any anaesthetic (painkilling medication), or with only a local anaesthetic to numb the tongue. In older babies with teeth, a general anaesthetic is given to perform the procedure.
For more information visit Patient Information NHS UK