Gum disease doesn’t discriminate by age. It’ll find any worthy victim who doesn’t have good oral health. In fact, the primary cause of gum disease in kids is bacteria and plaque buildup that results from not brushing or flossing.
Other causes of gum disease in children include genetics, gums drying out due to breathing through the mouth, malnutrition, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications. Kids with type I diabetes and Down syndrome are at a higher risk of periodontal disease.
Gum disease starts off as gingivitis but left unchecked, it can progress to periodontitis. If it becomes severe enough, a periodontist will have to perform significant treatment to prevent further damage to the bone and surrounding tissue.
SIGNS OF GUM DISEASE IN CHILDREN
- Gums that bleed with regular flossing and brushing of the teeth
- Bright red gums that are swollen and tender
- Receding gums
- Bad breath that persists even after brushing and flossing
HOW TO PREVENT GUM DISEASE
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to prevent gum disease in children. As with adults, children should brush their teeth twice a day with a kid-friendly toothpaste (the ADA has an approved list) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
But don’t leave it up to them! Until a child is about 6 or 7 years ago, they don’t have the manual dexterity it takes to do a thorough job, so you’ll need to maintain responsibility until that time.
When their toothy grins still have space between the teeth, you won’t need to worry about flossing. As soon as two teeth emerge that are touching, your child should floss daily to remove leftover food particles that attract cavity-causing bacteria.
Make sure you’re scheduling biannual visits to the dentist also! Dentists can detect gingivitis early and assess whether your child is receiving proper dental care at home.