Caring for your children’s teeth is important, and should be started early. But while most parents know the importance of brushing and flossing, it’s also important to pay close attention to your child’s gums, as well.
“The health of our gums can affect our overall health,” says Alpharetta kids dentist Dr. Nanna Ariaban. “Gum disease has been linked to serious issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. We often think of it as something that only happens in adults, but everyone is at risk for developing gum disease.”
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that, if it progresses, can damage the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth. It is caused by bacteria and food that builds up on the teeth, forming the sticky film that we refer to as plaque. The plaque then hardens into tartar that irritates the gums, leaving them swollen and red.
Most children with gum disease will only experience the mildest form, known as gingivitis.
It is important for parents to pay close attention to their children’s mouths to ensure they are brushing and flossing effectively to remove plaque and prevent tartar build up.
The first sign that your child may have an issue with their gums is puffy, swollen and very red gums.
Other symptoms include bleeding while brushing and chronic bad breath. “While younger children may develop gum disease due to poor oral hygiene, it’s not altogether uncommon for teenagers to experience it during puberty,” says Dr. Nanna, who treats children of all ages. “The increase in hormones that teenagers experience during this time can make their gums more sensitive to plaque. It is crucial during this time that teenagers pay extra close attention to their oral care routine to ensure they can stave off gum disease.”
So how can parents prevent gum disease in their children?
The first step is by encouraging and modeling good oral hygiene habits. When your children see you making your oral health a priority, they will know it is important. Help your children brush and floss until they are able to do it on their own, and continue to supervise them until you know the child is able to be responsible without supervision. Maintain regular checkups for your child with a pediatric dentist.
Children should see the dentist for the first time by their first birthday, and then every six months after.
If your child develops a mild form of gingivitis, it can be cared for through professional cleanings and proper oral care at home. It’s important that you schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist as soon as you suspect a problem. Mild gingivitis can be easily cared for, but if it worsens, the treatment may become more involved.