Gum disease is an oral health condition that's common among Canadian adults, but did you know that children can also be affected by this disease? Our Ottawa dentists explain how gum disease occurs in children and what can be done to prevent it.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the oral cavity that affects not only the gums but also the teeth, and in severe cases, the supporting jaw bone.
Gingivitis is the earliest and mildest stage of gum disease and is the form of gum disease most commonly found in children and teenagers.
What are the causes of gum disease?
When plaque builds up in the mouth as a result of poor oral hygiene, gum disease occurs, which is a common problem in children. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the teeth when bacteria is not removed from the mouth on a regular or sufficient basis. Tartar will form as a result of the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, which will then infect the gums, causing them to become red and swollen.
There are still some other causes of gum diseases that children aren't necessarily immune to. Mouth breathing, for example, is a cause of chronic dry mouth, which in turn can lead to gingivitis if not handled properly. Further, a diet full of starches and sugars won't provide enough nutrients to the gums and teeth, further increasing the risk of gum disease in children.
Hormonal changes, that occur 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.
What are the 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.
Early symptoms of gum disease typically include:
- Inflamed or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums during flossing
- Bad breath
If gum disease is allowed to progress unchecked and untreated, it will eventually manifest itself in more severe symptoms.
In the advanced stages of gum disease symptoms can include:
- Receding gums
- Periodontal pockets (space between the gums and teeth)
- Painful chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth (which may eventually fall out)
How can gum disease in children be prevented?
Gum disease can be prevented in both children and adults with a few simple steps. It probably won't come as a surprise to learn that maintaining good oral hygiene is essential in preventing gum disease from developing 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.