It is perhaps counterintuitive for parents to imagine that even young children can suffer from gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis): yet statistics show otherwise. Children of any age can begin showing signs of gum disease if they are not encouraged to practice good oral hygiene habits, and since gum tissues anchor teeth this can be a serious issue indeed. Like many diseases, practicing good preventive measures against gingivitis and periodontitis can help avoid chronic problems. Here is a parents’ guide for preventing gum disease in children.
Causes and signs of gum disease
Improper baby and toddler tooth care
Many parents may not realize that once that first tooth erupts, it is essential to begin daily oral hygiene routines. Also, letting a baby go to sleep with a bottle of formula or juice leads to tooth decay and associated gum disease.
Indifferent oral hygiene during adolescence
Parental vigilance regarding dental care tends to relax at the onset of the teen years, and many kids this age are unmotivated when it comes to brushing and flossing.
Genetics and close family relations
Some studies suggest that periodontitis has a genetic component, so if one family member suffers from it there are a good chance others will too.
Other health conditions:
Even the most conscientious parents may not know that the tendency toward gum disease may be aggravated by certain health conditions: Type 1 diabetes, Down’s syndrome, and Kindler syndrome, to name a few.
Look for the following signs in children of any age:
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen gums that are bright red
- Gums that recede away from teeth
- Bad breath
Although nearly all children across the age spectrum suffer from some degree of gum disease, there are many active steps that parents can take to not only correct it before it worsens but actually to prevent the worst types.
How to prevent gum disease in children
Early dental visits
Do not put off your child’s first visit to the dentist until past the age of two. A pediatric dentist is the best choice since he has special additional training in children’s oral health issues. Make a dentist’s visit every six months a high priority.
Brush your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled brush, and add toothpaste at age one. Once tooth gaps close, add flossing to the routine.
Once your child is old enough to brush and floss on his own, continue to supervise to make sure his routine is a sound one. Good habits are established young: let them know you care and emphasize how important oral hygiene is.
Check your child’s mouth regularly for the signs of gum disease mentioned above.
If anyone in the family has periodontal disease, have all other family members visit the dentist immediately for screening.
Be a great role model
If your children see that oral hygiene is important in your life, they are more likely to adopt such practices themselves.