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 treatment for kids.
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 may cause teeth to become loose because of the damage it causes to the soft tissue 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.
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. Genetics can increase your child’s risk as well, so be sure to tell your 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.