Gum disease can be an oral health problem among Canadian adults, but many people are unaware that it can also affect children. Our Penticton dentists explain how this happens and what can be done to prevent it in this blog post.
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 builds up in the mouth as a result of poor oral hygiene, and it is a common problem in children. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the teeth when bacteria in the mouth is not removed on a regular or adequate basis. Tartar forms as a result of plaque accumulation on the teeth, infecting the gums and causing them to become red and swollen.
Other causes of gum disease do exist, and children aren't always immune to them. Mouth breathing, for example, can cause chronic dry mouth, which, if not treated properly, can lead to gingivitis. Furthermore, a diet high in starches and sugars depletes the nutrients available to the gums and teeth, raising the risk of gum disease in children.
Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, increase the risk of gum disease. Blood flow is increased as a result of hormonal imbalances. This imbalance can lead to sensitive gums and teeth, which are more vulnerable to plaque and food particles as a result.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Depending on where gum disease is in its progression, it can show up in a variety of ways. While early symptoms are minor in comparison to advanced symptoms, they are inconvenient and unpleasant, as well as a sign of potentially more serious problems to come.
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 simple steps, gum disease can be avoided in both children and adults. Maintaining good oral hygiene is critical in preventing gum disease from developing in the first place, which should come as no surprise!
An effective oral hygiene routine at home, as well as regular dental visits for cleanings and examinations, are essential components of good oral health.