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Children’s Dentist in Johns Creek, GA, Explains Gum Disease by Age Group

Kids, from babies to 19-year-olds, can develop gum disease, also known as gingivitis and periodontitis. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) found that half of children under age five have gingivitis. This risk greatly increases during puberty, and babies are less likely to develop gum disease than teenagers. While parents may not think much about gum disease, the chronic condition places a child’s oral and overall health at risk. 

In today’s blog from your children’s dentist in Johns Creek, GA, parents will learn these facts about gum disease during the stages of childhood:

  • Symptoms to watch for
  • Risks and risk reduction
  • Health risks of gum disease
  • Treatments
  • Recurrence

Gum Disease Symptoms Are Universal

The signs of gum disease in kids are the same for any age. Parents should help with brushing and flossing until a child reaches age eight, in most cases. After this, parents should continue to remind children to brush and floss, then inspect the work until the child consistently does a thorough job. During teen years when hormones fluctuate, parents should keep a keen eye out for symptoms.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

  • Bleeding gums when brushing and flossing
  • Swelling of gums
  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Gum recession (may expose teeth roots)
  • Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
  • Pus at the gum line
  • Pain when chewing foods

Stages of Gum Disease in Children

  • Chronic Gingivitis: the most common and treatable type of gum disease in children; precursor to periodontitis
  • Early Periodontitis: inflammation increases, infection sets in, and early bone loss occurs
  • Aggressive Periodontitis: progression to tooth loosening and loss, gum infection and tissue death, and bone loss; may require periodontal surgery
  • Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis: gum inflammation, excessive plaque and tartar; occurs during puberty and affects the entire mouth; can cause teeth to loosen, gums tissue to die, and bone loss

It is much easier to treat gingivitis than generalized aggressive periodontitis, so if you notice any symptoms in your child, please schedule a visit with one of our children’s dentists in Johns Creek, GA: Dr. Danny King, Dr. Nirali Procter, Dr. Dyplan Hamilton, or Dr. Natasha Diaz.

Risk Factors and Health Risks for Gum Disease in Children

Risk Factors

Parents can inadvertently pass the bacteria that cause gum disease to their children through saliva when sharing food and utensils. Research has shown that 30% of humans are genetically predisposed to develop severe periodontal disease. However, the primary risk factors for the development of periodontal disease in kids are:

  • Poor daily hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Heredity
  • Stress
  • Defective fillings or bridges
  • Medications that cause dry mouth
  • Crooked, overlapping teeth
  • Hormone fluctuations

Health Risks

Scientists and clinicians have found that gum disease in children and adolescents is often reversible and usually causes little tissue damage, compared to adults. 

As in adults, a child’s oral health affects his overall health. When gum disease is present, the risk of developing these conditions increases:

  • Heart and lung inflammation
  • Diabetes complications
  • Cancer
  • Bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth, often while sleeping)

Children with chronic illnesses who develop gum disease have additional risks.

Infants, Babies, and Toddlers: 0-3

Parents are usually instructed to start brushing their baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. We advise parents to begin sooner. Parents should gently wipe their baby’s mouth with a soft, wet washcloth after feedings. 

Plaque buildup is the primary cause of gum disease in babies, so once the first tooth erupts, purchase a soft baby’s toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste. Brush morning and evening using a small dot of toothpaste. 

Once a child reaches age three and will spit after brushing, you can advance to a fluoridated toothpaste and appropriately sized toothbrush. Kids like the power to choose their toothbrushes, so select a few and let your child choose his favorite. 

Preschoolers, School-age Kids, and Early Adolescents (4-12)

By age four, your child should consistently brush twice a day, floss before evening brushing, and drink lots of water throughout the day. Kids still need your help! Brush and floss together to encourage good habits and good health. If you like, introduce a children’s mouthwash to the routine.

Limit sweets and starches, particularly when a child can’t follow the food with water to rinse his mouth. Also, encourage healthy snacks like fresh fruit, string cheese, and almonds, all of which have helpful nutrients for oral health.

Also, limit or ban sports drinks and sodas. They cause tooth erosion and cavities, and poor oral health increases the risk of developing gum disease. 

Make sure that your preschoolers, school kids, and adolescents attend checkups and dental cleanings every six months with your children’s dentist in Johns Creek, GA.

Teenagers and Young Adults (13-21)

Continue to encourage your teens to brush twice and floss daily. If the floss never needs to be replaced, you’ll know he’s not flossing. Replace toothbrushes every three or four months, and use a soft-bristled brush unless the dentist advises differently. A fluoridated antibacterial mouthwash may be used, along with a tongue scraper to remove plaque from the tongue’s surface.

Generalized aggressive periodontitis often presents during puberty due to hormone changes, which increase the risk for gum disease. You may notice the symptoms listed above, along with excessive plaque buildup. Without treatment, children with generalized aggressive periodontitis may experience early tooth loss.

Your Child’s Favorite Dentist in Johns Creek, GA

If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms reviewed in this blog, if you need advice about how to encourage good oral hygiene habits in your children, or if you have questions about children’s dentistry, please call Children’s Dental Zone at 770-777-1222 or go online to schedule an appointment. 

Remember, each of your children needs to visit us for a checkup and cleaning every six months. For your convenience, we’ll be happy to schedule your children’s visits consecutively. We will also file your insurance claim as a courtesy.

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