Hemangiomas are vascular tumors that affect babies and young children. These tumors can develop anywhere on your child's body, including inside their mouth. Hemangiomas inside the mouth are referred to as oral hemangiomas and are treated by dentists. Here are five things you need to know about them.
What are the signs of oral hemangiomas?
If your child has an oral hemangioma, you will see a reddish-blue lesion on their oral soft tissues, such as their gums or the insides of their cheeks. Generally, there is only one lesion, but it's possible for children to develop multiple lesions. The lesions can be either flat or raised and may bleed if they are disturbed.
Oral hemangiomas may be present from birth, but they can also develop later. Make sure to check your child's mouth for new lesions every time you clean their gums and teeth, and if you notice any changes, see a dentist right away.
What causes them?
Oral hemangiomas are composed of excess blood vessels. It's not known why these excess blood vessels develop, but it's suspected that genetics may play a role. More studies are required to identify the causes of oral hemangiomas.
Are they serious?
These tumors are not cancerous, but that doesn't mean that they're not a concern. While some oral hemangiomas are small and only lead to minor swelling and bleeding, others can grow to large sizes and can lead to life-threatening hemorrhages if they leak or rupture. They may also block your child's airway, depending on their size and location within the oral cavity. For these reasons, make sure to take your child to a dentist if you discover an oral hemangioma.
How are they treated?
Most of the time, oral hemangiomas will go away by themselves, so your dentist may recommend observing the tumor to see what happens. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of cases need medical intervention, so waiting to see what happens can save your child from unnecessary and stressful medical interventions.
If the tumor doesn't go away by itself, many treatments are available, including steroids. Your child will be given a high-dose of either systemic or intralesional steroids. This treatment doesn't work for all patients, but it can produce dramatic results and is worth trying.
If non-invasive treatments like steroids don't work, surgical excision may be required. During this treatment, your child's dentist will carefully slice away the entirety of the tumor. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area around the tumor, so don't worry that your child will feel any pain during the procedure.
If your child isn't a good candidate for surgical removal due to the location of the tumor, bleeding disorders, or other factors, other options are available, such as cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves using very low temperatures to freeze and kill the tumor.
Another possible treatment is the injection of sclerosing agents such as sodium tetradecyl sulfate directly into the tumor. Sclerosing agents are the same drugs that are used to treat varicose veins and work by shrinking and dissolving the abnormal veins within the tumor. The tumor will die, shrink, and then disappear, though it may recur in the future.
How common are oral hemangiomas?
Oral hemangiomas are fairly common in the United States. They affect as many as 2.6 percent of newborns and 12 percent of one-year-olds. This makes them the most common tumor in these age groups.
Oral hemangiomas are more common in white children than in children of other races. Studies have shown that they have a strong predilection for females: These tumors are three to five times more common among females than males.
If you notice a reddish-blue lesion inside your child's mouth, take them to a dentist right away. The lesion could be an oral hemangioma, a potentially serious but treatable condition.
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