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Vol. 68, No. 4
ISSN: 1488-2159
April 2002


Acute Herpetic Gingivostomatitis in Adults: A Review of 13 Cases, Including Diagnosis and Management


• Peter J. Chauvin, DDS, MSc, FRCD(C) •
• Amir H. Ajar, BSc, DDS •

A b s t r a c t

Objective: To present to general dentists the typical signs and symptoms associated with adult acute (primary) herpetic gingivostomatitis. The pertinent laboratory tests, management options and current pharmacotherapy are also reviewed.

Review Design: The clinical files of 13 adult patients were reviewed. All had no history of herpes simplex virus infection and presented with oral lesions suggestive of primary herpetic infection. The subjects were all patients of one of the investigators, and their workup included Tzanck testing and viral culture.

Results: The patients ranged in age from 18 to 79 (mean 37.2, standard deviation 19.6) years. Nine (69%) were men. Viral culture was confirmed as the gold standard for diagnosis. The sensitivity of Tzanck testing was 77% (10/13), slightly higher than that reported previously (40% to 50%). In this patient group the febrile lymphadenopathic profile was typical of younger patients (18 to 42 years of age), whereas older patients presented with predominantly oral symptoms.

Conclusions: Primary herpetic gingivostomatitis is not limited to children but can affect people of any age. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential, particularly in elderly and immunocompromised patients. Tzanck testing may serve as a useful adjunct in diagnosis. Antiviral agents such as valacyclovir and famciclovir should be considered part of early management. Dentists are often the first health care professionals to be consulted by patients with this condition, and recognition of the infection is paramount.


MeSH Key Words: adult; stomatitis, herpetic/diagnosis; stomatitis, herpetic/therapy
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