We often think of gum disease as a condition exclusive to adults, but this is not the case. Teenagers and even younger children are at risk for gum disease or its milder form, gingivitis, which may require a gum disease treatment for kids. Cases of gum disease in individuals under 18 can add to the estimated 50 percent of adults who have the disease if they are not treated correctly, according to the American Dental Association.
Generally speaking, gum disease is an inflammation of the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. The three stages of gum disease, from last to most severe, are gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. The signs and symptoms vary, and gum disease can also be painless. This is why it’s important to be aware of any symptoms including swollen, red, tender, or bleeding gums; gums that recede or move away from the tooth; persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth; loose teeth; or visible pus surrounding the teeth and gums.
What Is Gum Disease in Children?
Gum disease is a condition caused by bacteria and food debris that build up on teeth and form a sticky film known as plaque. As the plaque hardens, it forms tartar, and more plaque continues to form. Ultimately, this results in the gums becoming swollen and red. As it worsens, it can cause teeth to become loose because of the damage it causes to the soft issue and bone underneath the teeth. It’s not very common for children to have a serious form of gum disease, but it is common for them to develop a mild form of it called gingivitis.
Types of Periodontal Diseases in Children
Chronic gingivitis is common in children. It usually causes gum tissue to swell, turn red and bleed easily. It is both preventable and treatable with a regular routine of brushing, flossing and professional dental care. However, left untreated, it can eventually advance to more serious forms of periodontal disease.
Aggressive periodontitis can affect young people who are otherwise healthy. Localized aggressive periodontitis is found in teenagers and young adults and mainly affects the first molars and incisors. It is characterized by the severe loss of alveolar bone, and ironically, patients generally form very little dental plaque or calculus.
Generalized aggressive periodontitis may begin around puberty and involve the entire mouth. It is marked by inflammation of the gums and heavy accumulations of plaque and calculus. Eventually it can cause the teeth to become loose.
The earliest symptoms of gum disease are puffy, swollen or red gums. They will bleed easily during brushing and flossing. Chronic bad breath that doesn’t go away with brushing or flossing is a sign as well. As the disease progresses, your child may develop teeth that may wiggle, and the gums may develop pockets where plaque will continue to develop below the gums around the teeth.
Teenagers can begin to develop issues with their gums during puberty. The rise in progesterone and possibly estrogen leads to an increase in blood flow to the gums, making them more sensitive, states the American Academy of Periodontology. For children, the main cause of gingivitis is usually poor dental hygiene. However, certain diseases can increase a child’s risk, including Kindler syndrome, type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome and Papillon–Lefèvre syndrome, to name a few. Genetics can increase your child’s risk as well, so be sure to tell your kid’s dentist if there’s a family history of gum disease.
Treatment and Prevention
The first step in preventing your child from getting gum disease is to encourage good dental hygiene. Your child should brush his teeth at least twice a day. Additionally, establishing a good habit of flossing once per day will help. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should start seeing the dentist by his first birthday. Once your child sees the dentist for the first time, you should continue to schedule an appointment every 6 months for a checkup and cleaning. Make sure you act as a good role model by taking care of your teeth, too.
If your child develops a mild form of gingivitis, it can be treated through professional dental cleanings and by developing a good oral hygiene regimen. But a gum disease treatment for kids might be necessary if the condition worsens, which could include deep cleaning, an oral rinse, antibiotics or other medications. In more advanced stages, surgery may be necessary.
Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida is here to help you and your child prevent these sorts of diseases, especially gum disease at such a young age. When it’s time for your child’s next dental checkup, be sure to contact us to schedule an appointment!