Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is an infection of the oral cavity that can affect the gums, teeth, and in serious cases the supporting jaw bone.
The earliest and most mild stage of gum disease is gingivitis, and it's the form that is seen most often in children and teenagers.
The Causes of Gum Disease
Poor oral hygiene can result in a build-up of plaque in the mouth which can eventually lead to gum disease, which is a common issue among children. Plaque is a sticky film that develops on the teeth when bacteria isn't cleaned from the mouth on a sufficient or routine basis. When plaque accumulates on the teeth, tartar will form which can infect the gums making them swollen and red.
There are still some other causes of gum diseases that children aren't necessarily immune to. For example, breathing from the mouth can cause chronic dry mouth, and if it isn't managed properly can also result in gum disease. In addition to this, a diet that is high in sugars and starches won't provide the gums and teeth with enough nutrients, putting a child at a higher risk for gum disease.
Hormonal changes, especially during puberty, also come with an increased risk of gum disease. This is because blood flow is increased due to hormonal imbalances. This imbalance can create sensitive gums and teeth, which are in turn more susceptible to plaque and food particles.
Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease can manifest itself in a variety of ways depending on where it is in its progression. While early symptoms are mild in comparison to advanced symptoms, they are still inconvenient and uncomfortable, as well as a warning sign of potentially more serious problems to come.
Some Early symptoms of gum disease are:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums during flossing
- Inflamed or swollen gums
If gum disease goes unaddressed and untreated, it can eventually result in more serious symptoms.
Advanced symptoms of gum disease generally include:
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth (which may eventually fall out)
- Periodontal pockets (space between the gums and teeth)
How to Prevent Your Child From Getting Gum Disease
There are some simple steps both children and adults can implement to help prevent gum disease. It probably won't shock you to find out that maintaining good oral hygiene is key in preventing gum disease in the first place!
An effective oral hygiene routine at home, as well as regular dental visits for cleanings and examinations, are essential components of good oral health.