Many people think of periodontic care as something that only adults need, but the truth is that even children can suffer from the same oral diseases that affect adults, and pediatric dentistry can help treat and prevent these diseases. Periodontal infection is most common in children who have not seen a dental professional regularly for cleaning and maintenance, or who do not regularly brush their teeth. Pediatric periodontists specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating periodontal disease (gum disease) and oral inflammation, and placing dental implants for children.
Common Periodontal Diseases in Children
Periodontal disease often begins with gum disease, or gingivitis. Studies have indicated that the vast majority of children suffer from some form of gingivitis, and on rare occasions it can progress into more advanced forms of periodontal disease.
- Gingivitis is an infection in the gums, causing swelling, bleeding, and redness. It can be prevented in adults and children with regular brushing and flossing, and seeing the dentist for cleanings on a routine basis.
- Aggressive periodontitis most often affects the first molars and incisors, and is commonly seen in teenagers. With proper dental care it can be mitigated.
- Generalized aggressive periodontitis involves inflammation of the entire mouth, begins around puberty, and results in heavy accumulation of plaque and calculus, causing teeth to loosen.
- Periodontitis associated with disease is most common in children with Type I diabetes, Down syndrome, Kindler syndrome, and Papillon-Lefevre syndrome.
Common Signs of Periodontal Disease in Children
If you’re concerned that your child may suffer from periodontal disease, here are a few of the most common signs and symptoms:
- Bleeding gums when brushing, flossing, or any other time during the day
- Gums that are swollen and/or bright red
- Receding gums around the teeth, occasionally exposing the roots
- Bad breath that does not improve with brushing and flossing
Periodontal disease can also be genetic and dentistry studies have shown that the onset and severity often have a genetic component. If you know of a family member that has severe periodontal disease, it’s a good idea to get the whole family checked by a dental professional.
Practicing Good Oral Hygiene
One of the best ways to prevent periodontal disease in children, and avoid the need for advanced dentistry at such a young age, is proper oral hygiene. Teach your children proper oral care, including brushing and flossing at least twice a day. In addition, it’s important to bring children to the dentist or periodontist for regular cleanings and check-ups. If your child does have periodontal disease, early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to keep it from getting worse. Having a healthy smile, good breath, and strong teeth can help children build confidence and self-esteem.