There are various forms of inflammation of the mouth, generally dependent upon the entrance of germs, associated with indigestion or general weakness following some fever or other disease. Unclean nipples of the mother or of the bottle, or unclean bottles, allow entrance of germs, and are frequent causes. Irritation of a sharp tooth, or from rubbing the gum, or from too vigorous cleansing of the mouth, may start the disease. Some chemicals, especially mercury improperly prescribed, produce the disease. The germs may gain admission in impure milk in some cases. Inflammation of the mouth is essentially a children’s disease, only the ulcerated form being common in adults.
Symptoms. In general, the mouth is hot, very red, dry, and tender; the child is fretful and has difficulty in nursing, often dropping the nipple and crying; the tongue is coated, and there may be fever and symptoms of indigestion, as vomiting; sometimes the disease occurs during the course of fevers; later in the course of the disorder the saliva often runs freely from the mouth.
Simple Form. In this there are only redness, swelling, and tenderness of the inside of the mouth. The tongue is at first dry and white, but the white coating comes off, leaving it red in patches. After a while the saliva becomes profuse. The treatment consists in washing the mouth often in ice water containing about one half drachm of boric acid to four ounces of water by means of cotton tied on a stick, and holding lumps of ice in the mouth wrapped in the corner of a handkerchief. It is well also to give a teaspoonful of castor oil.
Aphthous Form. In this there are yellow white spots, resulting in little shallow depressions or ulcers, on the inside of the cheeks and lips, and on the tongue and roof of the mouth. These occur in crops and last from ten to fourteen days. The disease is often preceded by vomiting, constipation, and fever, with pain in the mouth and throat, and is accompanied by lumps or swelling of the glands under the jaw and in the neck. The treatment consists in the use of castor oil, and swabbing the mouth, several times a day, after each feeding, with boric acid solution, as advised before, or better with permanganate of potash solution, using ten grains to the cup of water.
Thrush ( Sprue ). This form is due to the growth of a special fungus in the mouth, causing the appearance of white spots on the inside of the cheeks, lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth, looking like flakes of curdled milk, but not easily removed. There are also symptoms of indigestion, as vomiting, diarrhea, and colic. The disease is contagious, and is due to some uncleanliness, often of the bottles, nipples, or milk. Sometimes ulcers or sore depressions are left in the mouth, and in weak children, in which the disease is apt to occur, the result may be serious, and a physician’s services are demanded. The treatment consists in applying saleratus and water (one teaspoonful in a cup of water) to the whole inside of the mouth, between feedings, with a camel’s hair brush or with a soft cloth. A dose of castor oil is also desirable, and great care as regards cleanliness of the bottles and nipples should be exercised.
Ulcerous Form. This does not occur in children under five, but may attack persons of all greater ages. It is often seen following measles and scarlet fever, and in the poor and ill nourished, and after the unwise use of calomel. There are redness and swelling of the gum about the base of the lower front teeth, and the gums bleed easily. Matter, or pus, forms between the teeth and the gum, and the mouth has a foul odor. The gum on the whole lower jaw may become inflamed, and a yellow band of ulceration may appear along the gums. The glands under the jaw and in the neck are enlarged, feeling like tender lumps, and saliva flows freely. In severe cases the gums may become destroyed and eaten away by the ulceration, and the bone of the jaw be diseased and exposed. As in the graver cases it may become necessary to remove dead bone and teeth, and the very dangerous form next described may sometimes follow it, it will be seen that it is a disease requiring skilled medical attention. The treatment consists in using, as a mouth wash and gargle, a solution of chlorate of potash (fifteen grains to the ounce) every two hours. Cases usually last at least a week.
Gangrenous Form. This is a rare and fatal form of inflammation of the mouth and occurs in children weak and debilitated from other diseases, as from the contagious eruptive fevers, chronic diarrhea, and scurvy. It is seen more often in hospitals and is contagious. A foul odor is noticed about the mouth, in which will be seen an ulcer on the gum or inside of the cheek. The cheek swells tremendously, with or without pain, and becomes variously discolored red, purple, black. The larger proportion of patients die of exhaustion and blood poisoning within one to three weeks, and the only hope is through surgical interference at the earliest possible moment.