What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and the bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease causes gums to be red, swollen, and tender, and can cause the gums to recede from the teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first stage and mildest form of periodontal disease. Gingivitis causes an inflammation of the gums and is characterized by swollen and red gums that bleed easily.
Does Gingivitis affect kids?
Studies indicate that gingivitis is a widespread problem among children and adolescents. Chronic gingivitis is common in children; however, it is preventable and treatable. Regular at-home oral care, including proper brushing and flossing, paired with professional pediatric dental care, is crucial in the prevention of gum disease.
What is periodontitis?
If gingivitis is left untreated it can progress into periodontitis. After time, plaque can spread below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque stimulate a chronic inflammatory response. The tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down, creating pockets where the infected gums have separated from the teeth. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and an increased amount of gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Do advanced forms of periodontal disease, such as periodontitis, affect children?
Although advanced cases of periodontal disease are more prevalent in adults, they can occur in children. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can eventually advance to a more serious stage of periodontal disease. A type of advanced periodontal disease, termed localized aggressive periodontitis, can affect young and healthy children. It is generally found in adolescents and tends to affect the first molars and incisors. Like other forms of periodontal disease, it is characterized by the severe loss of bone supporting the teeth. With localized aggressive periodontitis, patients ironically tend to form very little dental plaque. Another type of periodontal disease, generalized aggressive periodontitis, may begin around puberty and involve the entire mouth. It is marked by swelling of the gums and heavy accumulations of plaque.
Diagnosing and Preventing Gum Disease in Children, Advice for Parents:
- Diagnose Early. Early diagnosis is essential for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it is important that kids have a periodontal examination as part of their regular pediatric dental visits.
- Check for underlying health problems. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease. A general medical evaluation should be considered for kids who exhibit severe periodontitis, especially if it appears resistant to therapy.
- Help your child establish good oral health care habits at a young age. Having an at home oral care routine is an important step in the fight against periodontal disease. Beginning when your child is twelve months old, you can begin using a pea-sized portion of toothpaste when brushing his or her teeth. When the gaps between your child’s teeth close, it is important to start regular flossing. If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to alter their habits as soon as possible. It is much easier to modify these habits in a child rather than in an adult.
- Check your child’s mouth for signs and symptoms of gum disease. In between your child’s professional dental cleanings, check your child’s mouth for the signs of periodontal disease, including swollen and bright red gums, bleeding gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth and bad breath (halitosis).
- Be a Role Model. Serve as a good role model for your child by practicing good oral health care habits yourself and by scheduling regular dental visits for family checkups, periodontal evaluations and cleanings.
To schedule an appointment for you child’s next professional dental cleaning and periodontal evaluation, contact Burg Pediatric Dentistry today.