If you thought gum disease was exclusively to adults, then you’re wrong. As it turns out, teenagers and younger children are just at as much of a risk for gum disease as adults are. Worse still is that gum disease in children, if not treated properly, can put them at a higher risk for periodontal disease as adults.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a dental condition that’s primarily caused by bacteria and plaque buildup. Eventually, the plaque will harden and form tartar, which encourages even more plaque to form. This results in an infection where the gums become red and swollen. As the condition worsens, usually the result of it being left untreated, the teeth slowly become loose as the infection spreads to the soft tissue and bones supporting the teeth.

It is rare for children to have periodontitis, which is a more serious form of gum disease. Although, for children to develop gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease, is still quite alarming.

Symptoms and Causes

The earliest signs of gum disease in children (and even in adults) are puffy, red or swollen gums. There may also be bleeding in the gums when brushing or flossing. Another possible sign is chronic bad breath or halitosis.

As the disease progresses, children and teenagers may feel their teeth loosening, or pockets may also form in the gums, allowing plaque to build up below the gums around the teeth.

Gum disease may form in children and teenagers due to the following reasons:

  • The rise in progesterone and estrogen during puberty increases blood flow to the gums, which may make them more sensitive.
  • Poor dental hygiene is believed to be the main cause of gingivitis in both children and teenagers.
  • Certain illnesses can also put children at a higher risk for gum disease, such as Down syndrome, Type 1 Diabetes, andKindler syndrome, just to name a few.
  • Children may also be at a higher risk for gum disease if it runs in the family. This is why it is important to tell the dentist about any family history of gum disease.

Treatment and Prevention

If your child does develop gingivitis, it is still possible to reverse the effects by following a proper oral hygiene regimen at home. Although, it would be better to take your child to the dentist for dental cleaning and for the dentist to check the status of your child’s teeth. If the condition is worse than it seems, the dentist may recommend deep cleaning, oral rinse, antibiotics as well as other forms of treatment and even surgery!

Fortunately, it is possible to prevent gum disease, and the best way to do so is to encourage your child to follow a proper dental care routine at home.

You, as the parent, should encourage your child to brush his or her teeth for two minutes at least two times a day, and to floss at least once. It will also help if you take your child to the dentist as soon as he or she turns one, or a few months after the first tooth erupts, whichever comes first. Then, after the first visit, make it a point that you visit the dentist for checkups and monitoring, as well as professional cleaning, every six months.

Most important of all, be a good role model by taking proper care of your teeth as well. You may also make brushing and flossing a family habit to make sure that your child always look forward to it!

If you are worried that your child may be suffering from gum disease, contact Dr. Steven Crandall with South Hills Dental Arts in Upper St. Clair, PA at 412-833-6166 to schedule a consultation today. Or visitwww.southhillsdentalarts.com for additional information.

Dr. Steven Crandall with South Hills Dental Arts proudly accepts patients from Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park, Mt Lebanon, Peters Township, South Hill and surrounding areas.