For many, the idea of a healthy mouth conjures images of gleaming pearly whites. But no matter how beautiful your child’s teeth are, if their gums aren’t healthy, you could be putting them at risk for a number of health issues.
Studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to have other chronic inflammatory conditions than people with healthy gums. This includes things like diabetes and even cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, being informed about the different types of gum disease as well as what symptoms to look out for can help keep your child healthy. Read on to learn more.
Types of Gum Disease
Put simply, gum disease is an inflammation of the gum line. As inflammation progresses, the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth can be affected too. There are two types of gum disease — gingivitis and, more severely, periodontitis.
What is gingivitis? Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis symptoms: Gingivitis causes the gums to become red and swollen. You may find that gums bleed easily as well. Although your child may experience discoloration and bleeding, gingivitis isn’t typically painful or uncomfortable.
Gingivitis causes: Gingivitis is typically caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Not brushing often enough, diabetes, genetic predispositions, hormones, puberty, and stress can also cause gingivitis.
What is periodontitis? Periodontitis is advanced gingivitis. Over time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins are then produced by the bacteria here which leads to gum irritation. These toxins also stimulate a chronic inflammatory response, which can cause the body to essentially attack itself. As a result, the tissue and bone that support teeth are broken down and destroyed. As periodontitis progresses, the gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets that are prone to infection. This can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Periodontitis symptoms: Red, tender, and bleeding gums.
Periodontitis causes: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis.
What You Can Do to Prevent Gum Disease
With good oral hygiene, you can prevent gum disease in your child. These three steps will help you get started.
Thorough Brushing: Fighting gum disease starts with thorough brushing. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush that isn’t too big to fit in the small crevices of their mouth. For best results, make sure they brush their teeth with a toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against their gum line. Use short and gentle back-and-forth strokes on each tooth. Make sure to brush all areas of their mouth and brush for at least two minutes. Also, don’t forget the tongue. It’s important to replace a toothbrush on a regular basis as toothbrushes can harbor bacteria. For good measure, replace them every three months.
Thorough Flossing: Thorough flossing can help clean plaque from the areas in your child’s mouth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Aim to floss at least once a day, preferably thirty minutes after meals. To floss thoroughly, make sure your child takes enough floss to wrap around both middle fingers with enough slack in the middle to reach all areas of their mouth. Then, encourage them to use an up-and-down motion to slide the floss in between each tooth.
Routine Dentist Visits: Sometimes proper brushing and flossing isn’t enough, which is why it’s important to schedule regular trips to your dentist. A professional cleaning will help remove tartar and plaque buildup from your child’s teeth and can even help reverse gingivitis if it hasn’t progressed.
Your Gums Could Be Trying to Tell You Something Else
Beyond gum disease, certain unusual symptoms can be indicative of other underlying health issues. Diabetes, for example, can reduce the body’s resistance to infection and make it difficult to control blood sugar. High blood sugar can also adversely affect gums and lead to gum disease. To protect your child’s gums, make sure you keep their blood sugar levels as close to normal as you possibly can. Ensure they brush their teeth often and schedule regular trips to your dentist.
Sjögren’s syndrome affects nearly four million Americans and is another disease that can increase the risk of gum disease. With Sjögren’s syndrome, an individual’s immune system wrongly attacks tear ducts and salivary glands. Not only does the syndrome lead to chronic dry eye and a dry mouth, but the lack of saliva can also promote bacteria in the mouth, making your child more susceptible to gum disease.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Taking a child to the dentist can be a tiring, embarrassing, and frustrating experience. At AC Pediatric Dentistry, we understand this, and that’s why we want to make the experience pleasant and fun for children. Call us today or request an appointment online.