The oral health condition of gum disease is extremely common among Canadian adults, but many people are unaware that children can also be affected by this disease. In this blog post, our Okotoks dentists explain how this occurs 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.
When it comes to gum disease, gingivitis is the earliest and mildest stage. It is also the form that is most common in children and teenagers.
What are the causes of gum disease?
Gum disease develops when plaque accumulates in the mouth as a result of subpar oral care, and it is a common issue in kids. When bacteria in the mouth are not regularly or sufficiently removed, a sticky film called plaque forms on the teeth. Plaque buildup on the teeth will result in the formation of tartar, which will infect the gums and cause them to swell and turn red.
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, 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.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Depending on where it is in its progression, gum disease can show up in a variety of ways. Although early symptoms are less severe than advanced symptoms, they are still bothersome and uncomfortable and can be a sign of future, potentially more serious issues.
Early symptoms of gum disease tend to 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.
Advanced symptoms of gum disease tend to include:
- Receding gums
- Periodontal pockets (space between the gums and teeth)
- Painful chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth (which may eventually fall out)
Preventing Gum Disease in Children
With a few easy steps, gum disease can be avoided in both children and adults. It probably won't surprise you to learn that upholding proper oral hygiene is crucial for avoiding 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.