Gingival overgrowth in children: epidemiology, pathogenesis, and complications. A literature review

J Periodontol. 2005 Jan;76(1):3-10. doi: 10.1902/jop.2005.76.1.3.


Gingival overgrowth is the enlargement of the attached gingiva due to an increased number of cells. The most prevalent types of gingival overgrowth in children are drug-induced gingival overgrowth, hereditary gingival fibromatosis (HGF), and neurofibromatosis I (von Recklinghausen disease). Gingival overgrowth induced by drugs such as phenytoin, nifedipine, and cyclosporin develops due to an increase in the connective tissue extracellular matrix. According to epidemiologic studies, it is more prevalent in male children and adolescents. There is an additive effect of those drugs on the degree of gingival overgrowth. Genetic heterogeneity seems to play an important role in the development of the disease. Functional difficulties, disfigurement, increased caries, and delayed eruption of permanent teeth are the main complications of drug-induced gingival overgrowth. HGF is the most common syndromic gingival enlargement in children. This autosomal dominant disease usually appears at the time of eruption of permanent dentition. Histologically, it is characterized by highly collagenized connective tissue. The most important complications are drifting of teeth, prolonged retention of primary dentition, diastemata, and poor plaque control. Neurofibromatosis I is an autosomal dominant disease more common in mentally handicapped individuals. Gingival overgrowth is caused by the formation of plexiform neurofibromas in the connective tissue of the gingiva. Plexiform neurofibromas are pathognomonic of the disease and consist of hypertrophic nerves arranged as lobules in the connective tissue. Complications of the disease are multiple and severe due to neurofibromas and their occasional malignant transformation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cyclosporine / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fibromatosis, Gingival / complications
  • Fibromatosis, Gingival / epidemiology
  • Fibromatosis, Gingival / pathology
  • Gingival Overgrowth / epidemiology
  • Gingival Overgrowth / etiology*
  • Gingival Overgrowth / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / complications
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / epidemiology
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / pathology
  • Sex Factors
  • Tooth Migration / etiology


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine