Can kids get gum disease?
Although gum disease affects adults at higher rates, children can get gum disease too. Because periodontal disease is a serious gum infection that can risk losing teeth and harming our bodies, it is important for parents to recognize signs of gum disease in their kids and understand how to prevent and treat it.
Generally, there are three types of gum disease in children. Sometimes the disease can be resolved with home treatments while other times, your child may need to see a dentist or periodontist for care.
What are the types of gum disease in kids?
Gingivitis is the most common type of gum disease seen in children. Gingivitis can easily be spotted because your child’s gums will appear red, inflamed, and may bleed when brushed. Gingivitis often occurs with no gum pain or sensitivity so that’s why it’s important to visually check your child’s mouth for those signs.
Gingivitis is usually caused if kids aren’t brushing well and bacteria are left to flourish around the gumline. If detected early, gingivitis can typically be reversed by good home care and regular dental cleanings. However, sometimes there are additional reasons for gingivitis including the eruption of new teeth, hormones associated with puberty, mouth-breathing because of allergy or sinus issues, poor nutrition, and even some medications.
Aggressive periodontitis, also known as juvenile periodontitis can be seen in children and adolescents. It is called aggressive because, at its onset, it causes rapid loss of tissue and bone that support teeth.
Typically, aggressive periodontitis requires treatment with a periodontist. Common treatment includes non-surgical therapy such as scaling & root planing and antibiotic therapy. In some cases, periodontal surgery is necessary to treat this aggressive form of gum disease in children.
This form of gum disease is seen in adults more than children. Although rare, children can still present with chronic periodontitis, which progresses at a low to moderate rate compared to aggressive disease. Although rare, this form of gum disease requires treatment in a periodontal practice.
What are the signs of gum disease in children?
Typically, gum disease occurs with no significant pain or sensitivity, which is why knowing the signs and symptoms is so crucial. The most common signs of gum disease in kids include:
- Bleeding Gums
- Red & Shiny Gum Tissue
- Puffy or Overgrown Gums
- Gum Recession & Changes in Gum Shape
- Unexplained Chronic Bad Breath
How can parents help?
As a parent, you can help. First, knowing the signs and symptoms helps to lead you in the right direction toward better oral health for your children. If your child has any bleeding when they brush or floss, that is not normal and should get your attention. Healthy gums should be pink, firm against the teeth, and never bleed.
Next, if you see signs of gum disease, you can encourage your child to practice better homecare. Brushing two-minutes twice a day helps to remove the bacteria that causes gingivitis. After your child finishes brushing, it is sometimes a good idea to just look in their mouths to make sure plaque has been removed from the gumline. Sometimes, setting a timer helps encourage proper brushing time.
Finally, make sure that you schedule your child for professional dental cleanings twice a year. Your dental hygienist uses professional tools that remove harmful bacteria and can give you and your child home care tips to help prevent disease.
Remember, gum disease can affect not just teeth but also overall health. So, if better brushing does not improve the look of your child’s gums, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist who will evaluate your child’s gum health.