Oral health conditions like gum disease are very common among adults in Canada, but many people aren't aware that children can also be affected by gum disease. Here, our Collingwood dentists explain how this can happen and how you can help prevent it.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontitis, is an infection of the oral cavity that affects the gums and teeth. In severe cases, it can even impact 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?
When plaque builds up in your mouth as a result of poor or lapsed oral hygiene, gum disease occurs. And this is a common issue in children.
Plaque is a stick substance that forms on teeth when bacteria and food debris aren't removed from a mouth on a routine basis. Tartar will form as plaque accumulates, infect the gums and cause them to become red and swollen.
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.
During puberty, hormonal changes can also contribute to gum disease. This is because blood flow is abnormally increased because of hormonal imbalances. These imbalances can create sensitive gums and teeth which are, in turn, more susceptible to the buildup of plaque.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Gum disease can manifest itself in a number of different ways depending on where it progresses. While the early symptoms of gum disease are mild in comparison to it's more severe symptoms, they are still uncomfortable, inconvenient, and warning signs for potentially more serious issues that may arise in the future.
Early symptoms of gum disease tend to include:
- Bad breath
- Inflamed or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums during flossing
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
- Sensitive teeth
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth (which may eventually fall out)
- Periodontal pockets (space between the gums and teeth)
Preventing Gum Disease in Children
Gum disease can be prevented in both children and adults through a number of quite simple steps. It may not be a surprise that maintaining good oral hygiene is critical to 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.