You’ve probably heard that more than half of the adult population has some form of gum disease. But what about kids? Although you might not hear as much about kids and gum disease as you do about adults, children aren’t immune from problems with their gums. Learn more about how to recognize gum disease in children and how you can treat or try to prevent it.
Kids and Gum Disease: Common Types
There are several types of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. A few types are more common in children. For example, gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease, is fairly common in kids. Another relatively common form of gum disease in kids, particularly in adolescents, is aggressive periodontitis.
The signs of gingivitis usually include swollen or puffy gums. The gums are usually tender and red. Gingivitis often develops when there’s a buildup of plaque on the teeth and just below the gumline. The plaque hardens into tartar and attracts bacteria, which causes irritation and inflammation in the gums.
Kids can develop gingivitis is they don’t regularly brush their teeth or floss. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to get your kids in the habit of brushing and flossing daily from a very young age.
Aggressive periodontitis is a bit different from other forms of gum disease. While gingivitis and chronic periodontitis (the type of gum disease that’s most common in adults) develop as a result of inflammation from plaque and tartar buildup, aggressive periodontitis can develop even if a person doesn’t have much in the way of plaque buildup.
The aggressive form of gum disease also develops much more rapidly than other forms. It can cause significant bone loss if not treated quickly.
Kids and Gum Disease: Risk Factors
Hormones can play a role when it comes to a person’s overall risk for developing gum disease. If you’ve been around teenagers or older pre-teens for any amount of time, you probably know that their hormones are going crazy.
The increase of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during puberty can make an adolescent’s gums more sensitive to irritation and inflammation, slightly increasing their risk for gingivitis.
Additionally, some children have an increased risk for gum disease because of their family history or oral care habits at home.
Treating Gum Disease in Kids
Treatment for kids with gum disease depends in large part on the type of disease they have. In the case of gingivitis, a periodontist is likely to deep clean the teeth. The deep cleaning procedure might involve root planing, which reaches beneath the gum line. In the earliest stages, gum disease isn’t just treatable, it’s curable. Usually, a periodontist will recommend that a child who’s had gingivitis return for regular check-ups and further cleanings, if needed.
In the case of aggressive periodontitis and more advanced forms of gum disease in kids, treatment might involve restoring some of the lost tissue and bone. A periodontist can recommend the most appropriate treatment for a child based on the extent of the damage, the type of periodontitis they have, and their age.
Tips to Help Prevent Gum Disease in Kids
While it’s not always possible to prevent gum disease, there are things parents and kids can do to reduce their risk of developing it. The most important thing to do is to take excellent care of the teeth and gums at home. Have your kids brush twice a day and floss at least once a day. Parents can serve as role models for their kids by brushing and flossing with them or in front of them.
Regular dental visits can help parents and kids stay on top of their dental health and help reduce the risk of developing gingivitis. At the very least, having your child see a dentist twice a year will mean that any gum disease will be detected in the early stages when it’s mildest and easiest to treat.
If you’re concerned about your kids and gum disease, the first thing to do is schedule a consultation with a periodontist. A periodontist can evaluate your child’s teeth and gums, make a diagnosis and recommend the best treatment. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is an accomplished periodontist, offering patients customized advice and the latest treatments for gum disease. Call 305-547-8805 to schedule an appointment at Dr. Gallardo’s office in Miami today.