While most of us can spot a rotten tooth or cavity, not everyone is familiar with the signs of gum disease. At Kids Healthy Teeth, our pediatric dentist is dedicated to educating her patients about how to detect early signs of gum disease because it can cause serious damage when left untreated. Without healthy gums, teeth have no anchor or protection, so it’s very important to take good care of both the teeth and gums.
Pediatric periodontal disease is a type of gum disease that affects children. It can make basic functions like eating and brushing very uncomfortable and even painful. Young children may develop periodontal disease if they don’t learn and practice proper brushing and flossing techniques regularly. Teens may also be at higher risk of getting periodontal disease because of their hormonal changes in puberty. Higher levels of certain hormones can increase blood circulation to the gums, resulting in gum sensitivity.
Types of Gum Disease
Gum disease is usually caused by a buildup of plaque and bacteria around the gums. Plaque and bacteria can irritate the gums, causing them to swell, bleed, recede, and deteriorate. Dentists typically categorize gum disease by severity. Here are the types of gum disease and how to check if your child may have them:
- Gingivitis: This mild form of gum disease is very common. Most people are diagnosed with gingivitis at some point of their life. It is characterized by bleeding (often when flossing), inflammation, and redness in the gums. Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease that can be easily treated with regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups. Parents should not be too concerned if they notice their children are afflicted with gingivitis, but they should start taking initiative to treat the gum disease before it gets worse.
- Localized pediatric periodontitis: This is a severe type of periodontitis that affects the bone and teeth. Teens are more at risk of pediatric periodontitis than young children, but it can occur at any age. Localized pediatric periodontitis will usually show up in the molars and incisors first and cause alveolar bone loss.
- Generalized periodontitis: This is another aggressive type of periodontitis; however, it is not limited to one area of the gums. Generalized periodontitis will affect the entire mouth. Signs of generalized periodontitis include calculus accumulation, swelling, redness, and inflammation around the gums. Kids often develop generalized periodontitis around puberty. Without treatment, it can result in the deterioration and loss of teeth.
According to some studies, people with periodontal disease are also at higher risk of other health problems. Oral bacteria from the gums can enter the bloodstream or be inhaled into the upper respiratory tract, resulting in cardiovascular disease or respiratory infections.
How to Treat Pediatric Periodontal Disease
It’s not unlikely that your child may not even notice that they have periodontal disease, especially if it’s gingivitis. Often, kids don’t realize they have periodontal disease until they go to the pediatric dentist for a checkup. Mild gum diseases can be treated with a professional dental cleaning followed up with routine brushing and flossing. The pediatric dentist can show your child how to brush and floss correctly in the future to prevent plaque from building up against the gumline.
For more severe periodontal disease, the pediatric dentist may have to extract and replace rotten teeth. Flap surgery allows dentists to professionally remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line. If there has been extensive damage to the tissue and bone, skin or bone can be grafted from another part of the body and placed in the mouth where it is missing. The pediatric dentist can also recommend antibiotic gel and other medications to prevent bacteria from causing further damage.
How to Prevent Pediatric Periodontal Disease
The best treatment is prevention! Fight gum disease early on by teaching your kids how to remove plaque with routine brushing and flossing. Scheduling semi-annual dental exams is also one of the best ways to ensure your child is on the right track. The pediatric dentist can diagnose periodontal disease early on and show your child how to address any problem areas. There are different techniques to clean all the hard-to-reach spots in the back of the mouth. The pediatric dentist can also recommend certain products, like fluoridated toothpaste or antimicrobial mouthwash, to fight gingivitis. Learn more about how to create a family dental hygiene routine,from the talented dentists at Bluebell Family Dental, so your kids have practice with good oral care.
Diet also plays a major role in oral health. Consuming products that are high in sugar can contribute to plaque buildup around the gums. To prevent periodontal disease, limit your child’s sugar intake. Dairy products like cheese and yogurt can remineralize your child’s teeth and get rid of unwanted bacteria by increasing the mouth’s pH. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are great for the gum tissue and bones. To learn more about tooth-friendly foods, head to our pediatric dentist’s grocery guide in Katy, TX.
If you have teens, educate them about the negative consequences of nicotine and tobacco products. Cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco, etc. are often full of toxic chemicals that are detrimental to oral health. These products are also highly addictive and they can weaken the immune system, so even if your child has good dental habits, their body may not be able to heal from previous gum damage if they continue to smoke.
Our Katy pediatric dentist is trained to treat kids of all ages. She can help your child maintain healthy gums and teeth from infancy to young adulthood! If you are interested in learning more about pediatric periodontal disease or you simply want to book an appointment with our children’s dentist, give us a call! We’re always happy to help.