Gum disease is an extremely common oral health condition among Canadian adults. That said, many people are unaware that children can also be impacted by this disease. Here, our Tecumseh dentists explain how this happens and what actions can be taken to prevent it.
What is gum disease?
Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection of the oral cavity. It impacts not only the gums but also the teeth, and even the supporting jaw bone in severe cases.
If you hear gum disease being discussed, gingivitis is the mildest, earliest stage. It is also the type that children and teenagers most commonly experience.
What are the causes of gum disease?
Plaque accumulates in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene, which leads to gum disease - a common problem for children. When bacteria is not removed from the mouth on a regular or sufficient basis, plaque is the sticky film that develops on teeth. This then leads to tartar - an accumulation of the plaque that can infect gums, causing them to become swollen and red.
There are other causes of gum disease that children aren't immune to. For example, mouth breathing can cause chronic dry mouth, which can lead to gingivitis if not handled properly. Further, a sugary, starchy diet won't provide enough nutrients for the gums and teeth, further increasing the risk children will have gum disease.
Hormonal changes, especially those that occur during puberty, also come with an increased risk of gum disease since hormonal imbalances bring an increase in blood flow. 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?
Gum disease can manifest itself in a variety of ways depending on where it is in its progression. While early symptoms are mild in comparison to advanced symptoms, they are still inconvenient and uncomfortable, as well as a warning 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
Gum disease can be prevented in both children and adults with a few simple steps. It probably won't come as a surprise to learn that maintaining good oral hygiene is essential in preventing gum disease from developing 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.