Periodontal disease, or gum disease, sounds like an adult problem. As long as kids can keep their mouths cavity-free, they’re doing just fine.

Not exactly. In fact, the American Academy of Periodontology said, “Epidemiologic studies indicate that gingivitis of varying severity is nearly universal in children and adolescents.” However, it usually is less serious than it is in adults. With that in mind, it’s essential to think of gum disease as a child’s problem, too, and to do what you can to prevent it.

gum disease What Is Gum Disease?

The American Dental Association (ADA) describes it like this:

“Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the gums that, if severe, can lead to the loss of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth.”

There are three main types of gum disease in children:

  • Chronic Gingivitis causes gums to swell and bleed and is preventable with a good oral hygiene routine.
  • Aggressive Periodontitis is localized to a few teeth, generally the first molars and incisors, in teenagers. “It is characterized by the severe loss of alveolar bone….”
  • Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis: This inflammation and excessive plaque throughout the entire mouth can actually lead to loose teeth.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research points out that poor oral hygiene is one reason for gum disease, since the disease is caused by the accumulation of plaque and bacteria. However, children and teenagers with compromised immune systems and connective tissue disorders may be at a higher risk, particularly when combined with poor brushing habits. Diabetes, crooked teeth, smoking, and certain medications may also increase your risk of gum disease.

You or your dentist may notice the following symptoms of gum disease:

  • Bleeding Gums: This may happen during brushing or flossing.
  • Swollen Gums: Healthy gums are pink; diseased gums may be red and swollen.
  • Receding Gums: Indicative of a more advanced stage of periodontal disease, gums that start to move away from the teeth can increase the risk of infection and loose teeth.
  • Bad Breath: When all the brushing and flossing don’t seem to help your child’s bad breath, they may have gum disease.

How to Prevent Gum Disease in Children

Preventing gum disease and preventing cavities go hand-in-hand: the best prevention is all about good oral hygiene. Since treatment for gum disease could include deep cleaning, antibiotics, surgery, or gingival grafting (“…a dentist removes healthy gum tissue from another part of the mouth and stitches it into place” to hold your teeth in place and improve how they look), it’s far easier and more economical to prevent gum disease in the first place. The ADA recommends the following:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • Flossing.
  • Visiting your dentist on a regular basis for professional cleanings to remove plaque build-up.
  • Ask your dentist for tips on how to brush and floss correctly.

As a parent, you can do your part by helping your child develop those healthy habits at a young age. You can start to brush your baby’s teeth with a soft toothbrush as soon as you see them above the gum line! Doing that twice a day will not only help keep those brand new teeth and gums healthy, but your child will also grow up knowing that brushing is an expected part of daily life.

When your children are old enough to brush their own teeth, make it as much fun as possible. Electronic toothbrushes may help your child be more thorough about brushing, and fun patterns and characters on an electronic or manual brush give your child something else to enjoy. Set a good example by demonstrating good oral hygiene yourself and even brushing your teeth alongside your children.

With proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits, your child has the best chance of avoiding both gum disease and cavities and maintaining a healthy mouth for life.

If you are currently looking for a new dental home for yourself or a loved one, we are here for you. Need to make an appointment? Contact Earwood Dentistry online or at (919) 847-8413 today!