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 occurs when plaque accumulates in the mouth as a result of poor oral hygiene, which is a common problem in children. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the teeth when bacteria in the mouth are not removed regularly or sufficiently. Tartar forms as a result of plaque accumulation on the teeth, which then infects the gums, causing them to swell and become red.
There are still some additional causes of gum disease to which children may not be immune. For example, mouth breathing can result in chronic dry mouth, which, if not treated properly, can progress to gingivitis. Additionally, a diet high in starches and sugars depletes the gums and teeth of necessary nutrients, increasing the risk of gum disease in children.
Hormonal changes, particularly those associated with puberty, also increase the risk of gum disease. This is because hormonal imbalances increase blood flow. This imbalance can result in sensitive gums and teeth that are more prone to plaque and food particles.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Gum disease may present in a variety of ways, depending on its stage of progression. While early symptoms are mild in comparison to advanced symptoms, they are still inconvenient and uncomfortable, as well as a precursor to potentially more serious problems.
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 prevented in both children and adults. It's probably not surprising to learn that maintaining proper oral hygiene is critical for preventing 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.