gum disease

Talking to Your Kids About Gum Disease

There’s something about your child’s beautiful smile that can just make you melt. But you may not realize that as soon as your children get teeth, they become susceptible to gum disease. Although certain types of gum disease more prevalent in adults, children still can be affected by gum disease. Regular dental visits definitely help prevent gum disease, but it’s important for parents to start talking to kids about gum disease, encouraging good habits that can prevent gum disease and preserve that beautiful smile you love so much. Here’s some helpful information you can use to talk to kids about gum disease on a level they’ll understand.

Gum Disease – What is It?

Gum disease, which your dentist may call periodontal disease, is a type of inflammation that happens in the bone and tissues that are supporting your teeth. If you don’t have gum disease treated, it can make teeth become loose or even fall out. Usually the buildup of plaque, that sticky, invisible layer of germs that builds up on your gums and teeth, is the cause of gum disease. Since plaque has bacteria, or germs, in it, those germs can make toxins that hurt and irritate your gums. Hundreds of different types of germs live in the mouth, so it is always a battle to keep that plaque away.

Who is at Risk for Gum Disease?

Many different things can make you have a higher risk of gum disease. Sometimes people inherit the tendency to get gum disease from parents. The food choices you make also can increase your risk of getting gum disease. If you are grabbing unhealthy foods like sodas and snacks and you don’t brush soon after you eat, the sugar and starches in those food can actually eat away the enamel of your teeth. Wearing braces, some medical problems, and taking some medicines can increase your risk of developing gum disease.

What are the Signs of Gum Disease?

Gum disease can cause painful problems if you don’t treat it and prevent it. In fact, your teeth could fall out if gum disease is severe and not treated. It is important to know the most common signs of gum disease. Some of the signs you could have gum disease include:

  • Red, tender, or swollen gums (your gums should normally look firm and pink
  • Bad breath that you cannot get rid of
  • Bleeding gums that happens regularly when you floss or brush your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Signs of the gums pulling away from your teeth

If you notice any of these problems, you should tell your parents and you should visit your dentist. If gum disease is treated early, you can avoid bigger problems like tooth loss.

The Best Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

The great news is that in most cases, you can actually prevent gum disease. However, you have to start taking good care of your teeth now, while you are still a kid. Some important ways you can prevent gum disease include:

  • Make sure you brush at least twice a day for two minutes, which is around the length of a fun song. You also need to floss every day. You can ask your dentist to tell you how to floss and brush properly so you do the best possible job cleaning your teeth at home.
  • Make sure you are using toothpaste that has fluoride in it. You can also talk to your dentist about using a mouth rinse that has fluoride.
  • Eat healthy foods. Don’t eat too much sugar, which is found in junk foods and many snack foods. The germs in your mouth love sugar and feed on it, so you need to stick with healthier, low-sugar foods most of the time.
  • You should use a toothbrush that has soft bristles, since they are least likely to injure or irritate your gums. Your toothbrush should also be replaced every 3-4 months, since a toothbrush that is worn-out may actually cause injury to your gums.
  • Never smoke. Even if someone offers you cigarettes, don’t take them. Both cigarettes and chewing tobacco can be unhealthy for your teeth and gums, making you more likely to have gum disease.
  • Be sure you see your dentist twice a year for your regular cleanings and exams. This way hardened plaque and tartar that you’re not able to remove by brushing is removed from teeth, lowering your chance of getting gum disease.
floss properly

Teaching Your Children to Floss Properly

Health habits started early in life are hard to change – if you want your children to have good oral hygiene habits, start training your kids while they are young. One of the best dental health habits you can teach your child is how to floss properly.

Food particles and plaque can settle between the teeth, and this can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. Flossing prevents tooth decay and reduces your child’s risk of developing gum disease. Flossing also removes plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly form on teeth.

Routine flossing also gives your child a moment to examine his or her mouth and learn about teeth and gums. Simply flossing teeth can make them appear brighter by removing tiny food particles and plaque that give teeth a dull, dirty appearance.

Teaching your children to floss properly is easier than you might think.

How to Teach Your Children to Floss Properly

Begin early. Start teaching your children to floss when their teeth are too close together for the bristle of a toothbrush to fit easily between them. This will be between the ages of 5 and 7 years old – some dental professionals recommend starting even sooner. Kids should be able to floss on their own by the time they are 9 years old. Developing the habit early in childhood increases the chances that your children will continue to floss throughout their entire adult lives.

Be prepared for an unenthusiastic response. Some children think flossing is fun. Other kids are not as captivated and they can lose interest after flossing between just one or two teeth.

Understand that kids often have sensitive gums, so flossing may be uncomfortable for them. This sensitivity goes away in time. While you do not want your children to associate flossing with discomfort, you do want to instill healthy flossing habits in your children while they are young. If you have a child with sensitive gums, encourage him or her to floss very gently but to still floss every day.

Remember that young children do not have the same coordination as older kids, so little ones may complain that flossing is too hard. Encourage your children to keep trying, and reassure your kids that flossing gets easier with time and practice.

Teach your child to examine his or her gums, teeth and tongue while flossing. Specifically, get your child into the habit of looking for redness, inflammation, or other signs of tooth and gum disease.

Show Your Child How to Floss Properly

Show your young child how to floss properly a few times as you teach him or her how to floss. Use good flossing practices.

Cut a short length of floss, about 18 inches will do. Pinch the floss between your thumb and index finger.

Wrap one end of the floss around the index finger of your right hand and the other around your left index finger.

Slide the floss between two teeth. Explain to your child that you should not push too hard or you might hurt your gums.

Pull both ends of the floss to curve it into the letter ‘C’ around a tooth. Slide the floss up and down gently along your tooth. Slide the floss down into your gum a little bit to remove food and plaque you cannot see.

Use a new section of floss for each tooth so you don’t move the food and plaque from one tooth to another.

Tips for Getting Your Kids Excited about Flossing

Flossing can be a fun family activity! Kids love a good example, so brush and floss your teeth alongside your wee ones.

Make flossing look like it is a lot of fun. Smile, make funny faces, play a song, and dance!

Try different colors and flavors of dental floss, and let each of your children pick on that they like. Fun flavors and colors makes flossing a bit more fun, and this will increase the chances that your children will maintain healthy flossing habits throughout their lives.

Use a flosser instead of traditional dental floss. A flosser is easier for many kids to manage. For best results, let your children pick out their own flossers; manufacturers now offer a variety of fun kid-friendly flossers.

Flossing can have lifelong dental health benefits. Teaching your children to floss properly at a young age can greatly improve their chances of having bright, healthy smiles for life.


Little girl in the dentist office

Does My Child Need Braces?

Whether your child needs braces or not is a question that should be answered by an experienced, orthodontist. However, there are quite a few signs that you may notice as a parent that could indicate braces are needed.

If orthodontic problems aren’t addressed properly and promptly, they can end up impacting your child’s oral health in a negative way. It’s important for parents to learn how to identify any early signs of orthodontic problems so you can get them in for an orthodontic consultation to determine if your child really does need braces.

Here’s a closer look at some of the main signs your child could need braces.

Sign #1 – Overbite

An overbite is the horizontal and vertical overlap of your child’s front teeth. While the overbite can vary, usually it is noticeable when your child’s front teeth are sticking out a lot farther than their bottom teeth are. If your child has an overbite, it can result in several oral health problems and issues, including:

  • An increased risk of fracturing their front teeth if an injury occurs
  • Complications when dental restorative work is done, such as veneers, cosmetic fillings, and crowns
  • High risk of trauma to your child’s front teeth

Sign #2 – Crowded Teeth

One of the most common signs your child may need to get braces is overcrowding of their teeth. This means there isn’t enough room in their mouth for all their teeth. If there isn’t enough room for their teeth, the teeth become crowded and cause teeth to become crooked. Crowding only gets worse as your child begins to grow older, and regular oral hygiene tasks like flossing and brushing can become very complicated. This means that teeth may not be cleaned properly since it takes more effort and time to clean crowded teeth.

If teeth are severely crowded, it may be nearly impossible to get some areas of the teeth clean. When this happens, plaque can build up, resulting in bad breath, tooth decay, bone loss around your child’s teeth, and gum disease.

Seeking orthodontic treatment for crowded teeth while your child is still young can help straighten and align their teeth. This will help prevent future oral health and pain problems, lowering their risk of problems like gum disease and cavities.

Sign #3 – Openbite

An openbite is a type of abnormal bite in which your child’s front teeth don’t touch at all. This may result in speech difficulties and problems, such as lisps, and may make it difficult to bite into food.

Sign #4 – Underbite

Another type of abnormal bite that can be a sign your child needs braces is an underbite, which occurs when the upper front teeth are behind your child’s lower front teeth. This can happen when a child has a disproportionate jaw size. An underbite that isn’t treated can result in problems chewing and biting, an imbalanced facial appearance, and faster facial aging as your child grows up.

Sign #5 – Crossbite

Crossbites are a type of abnormal bite in which your child’s upper tooth ends up behind a lower opposing tooth. A crossbite can cause your child many different problems, such as asymmetrical aw growth or excessive wear to these teeth. In some cases, the teeth may even fracture. Other problems associated with a crossbite include the inability to restore teeth that have been overly worn or fractured, as well as increased gum recession around the teeth affected by the crossbite.

Some of the other general signs that your child could need braces include:

  • Accidental biting of the roof of the mouth or the tongue
  • Jaws that make sounds or shift
  • Teeth and jaws that are not proportionate to the rest of your child’s face
  • Irregular, late, or early loss of the baby teeth
  • Problems biting or chewing their food

If your child has been experiencing any of these signs, it’s very important to have your child evaluated. An examination by an orthodontist can determine if your child’s bite is going to grow worse and whether they need to have orthodontic intervention. Your child’s teeth are important to his overall health, so if you’re worried about any potential problems, have them evaluated immediately. Then you can work with your dentist or orthodontist to determine if and when braces are the correct treatment.