Periodontal (gum) Disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place destroying the gums of the mouth. It is caused when there is a buildup of plaque on the teeth from lack of brushing, flushing, and proper dental hygiene. When you do not treat the plaque with proper dental care, it hardens and turns into tarter. The plaque grows in the mouth if it is not removed.
There are three main types of gum disease that occur in children the most.
- Gingivitis: This causes the gums to be swollen, sensitive and be prone to bleeding.
- Target Age: All ages
- Aggressive Periodontitis: If the gingivitis goes untreated, it can get more aggressive and target the molars and incisors. This can lead to bone loss in the mouth, which is very serious because bone loss leads to loose teeth.
- Target Age: Young adults and teens
- Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis: This involves excessive plaque buildup. This can result in gum loss and teeth loss.
- Target Age: Children after puberty
The good news about gum disease is that the symptoms are usually obvious with the child and the parent. If you notice excessive bleeding, or if they say they are in pain from brushing or eating, these can be early signs of gum problems. A lot of times if your child fights you on the idea of brushing their teeth, it usually is a red flag that there is something wrong.
Here are the symptoms you can look out for with your children:
- Bad breath that will not go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or sensitive gums
- Bleeding gums
- Painful chewing and sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
- Receding gum lines
- Pus between teeth
Unfortunately, some children are at risk of periodontal disease more than others. For example, certain genes lead to higher risk of gum disease. Children who breathe heavily through their mouths are also at higher risk. Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth, which can lead to severe drying of the gums and teeth in the front of the mouth. Children with diabetes or autoimmune diseases are also higher at risk of infections in the gums. Hormonal changes during puberty can also be a risk factor. Lastly, certain medicines can cause an overgrowth of gums, so always make sure to look into the side effects of medications before giving them to your child.
Advice for Parents
As a parent, it is important to be a good role model for your children. The best advice to give to parents is to set up good preventative care with your child and establish oral hygiene habits early.
- Stress importance of oral hygiene to children. Talk about what that means for their health and why it is important.
- Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- Make sure your child flosses daily, this gets out trapped food between teeth and gums that toothbrushes cannot reach. Trapped food leads to decay, which leads to plaque.
- See your Jefferson Dental dentist for regular comprehensive periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits.
- Ensure the child eats a healthy and balanced diet that is low in sugar and starchy carbs.
The most important takeaway is that it is always important to be a good role model for your child and set good dental hygiene examples. If a child sees your routine, they are much more likely to follow. Periodontal disease can be severe, so it is important to watch for early signs of symptoms in your child. You and your child can prevent gum disease simply through good dental care. However, if you see early signs or notice anything different in your child’s mouth, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner it is caught, the easier it is to treat.