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Mini Guide to Gum Disease in Children

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Many people associate gum disease as only being a problem seen in adults. Unfortunately, children and teenagers may also be at risk of getting gum disease. Children and teens may start to show signs of gum disease at any age, especially if they are not encouraged to practice good oral hygiene habits. When children get gum disease, it may lead to serious problems with development and growth of their baby teeth as well as their permanent adult teeth. This mini guide will help you better understand gum disease in kids and ways to possibly prevent it.

What Exactly Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a bacterial infection that occurs when the tissue surrounding teeth becomes inflamed and infected. If not properly addressed, the infection can spread to the tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place. Progression of gum disease causes pockets to form in the gums, these pockets harbor more bacteria, which increases the infection. The infection can become so severe that it may make its way into the blood stream and travel throughout the body, which can cause more serious health problems, including heart disease.

What Causes Gum Disease in Children?

The leading cause of gum disease in children is improper oral hygiene. Babies who fall asleep with a bottle of formula or sugary juices in their mouths may also be a risk of gum disease, because the sugars that lay on the teeth encourage the growth of bacteria. Children from toddler age through the teen years who are not encouraged to properly brush and floss may not be removing the food particles that also encourage the growth of bacteria, which puts them at risk of developing gum disease. Children who are diagnosed with other health conditions, such as diabetes, may also be at high risk of gum disease.

Signs of Gum Disease in Children

The signs of gum disease in kids are the same as they are in adults, including:

  • Bleeding gums after flossing or brushing
  • Red and/or swollen gums
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath

Preventing Gum Disease

One of the first and most important steps in preventing gum disease in children is regular visits with their pediatric dentist. Children should have their first dental examination before their first birthday. Cleaning teeth and gums is important for removing the bacteria that may lead to gum disease. Here are different methods for different ages:

  • Babies who have not started cutting their teeth should have their gums wiped off with a damp, clean, and soft cloth after each bottle.
  • Toddlers and young children should brush their teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that is safe for children.  
  • Teens should be encouraged to brush at least twice each day and floss and rinse with an appropriate mouth rinse.

Routinely check your child's mouth for possible signs of gum disease, especially if anyone in your family has periodontal disease (gum disease may be genetic). Schedule routine dental exams

If you suspect your child may be showing signs of gum disease, it is important that you schedule an appointment with their pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Gum disease caught in the early stages may be reversible, but the longer it goes untreated, the more damage it will do to the teeth, gums, and mouth. Click here for more info about pediatric dentistry.