Gum disease, sometimes referred to as gingivitis or periodontitis, is an inflammation that affects the gums, underlying tissues, and supporting bones of the teeth. Without proper oral care, children are susceptible to this condition, which, if left untreated, can result in tooth loss.
Origins of Gum Disease
The mouth naturally forms a sticky residue called plaque. When not properly cleaned off through brushing and flossing, plaque accumulates on teeth, housing bacteria that release harmful toxins. These toxins irritate and infect the gums, eventually damaging the bones and tissues anchoring the teeth.
Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis
Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is fairly common in children. It manifests as swollen, reddened gums that might bleed during brushing or flossing. Often painless, gingivitis might go unnoticed by your child. However, with professional intervention and diligent oral care, it can be reversed.
If neglected, gingivitis can escalate to periodontitis.
Certain forms of aggressive periodontitis target children even if they show no other health issues. Teens and young adults might experience localized aggressive periodontitis, primarily affecting first molars and incisors, leading to significant bone loss. Meanwhile, generalized aggressive periodontitis might emerge around puberty, affecting the whole mouth with inflamed gums and extensive plaque buildup, eventually making teeth wobbly.
Identifying Gum Disease
As gum disease can progress silently, it’s essential to recognize potential symptoms:
- Reddened or swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Bleeding during brushing or flossing
- Gums pulling away from teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Changes in bite alignment
If you think your child may have gum disease, seeing your pediatric dentist is crucial. They can gauge the condition’s extent and recommend suitable treatments.