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Mom gives daughter a piggy-back ride as the both smile with healthy gums outside for National Gum Disease Awareness Month

How to Protect My Child’s Gum Health

February 26, 2020 5:46 pm

February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month, in addition to National Children’s Dental Health Month. The terms “gum disease” and “periodontal disease” describe all stages of the condition, including chronic gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis

Chronic gingivitis starts when plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) builds up on teeth, as well as along and under the gumline. Saliva contains calcium which hardens the plaque into tartar or calculus. The germs that live in these substances irritate and damage gums, causing them to become inflamed. Inflamed gums bleed easily and feel tender when brushed and flossed.

Gingivitis commonly affects children and teenagers (plus adults and seniors!) who have poor brushing and flossing habits. Daily brushing and flossing are essential for cleaning the mouth of bacteria and food particles.

Teens are also at greater risk of gingivitis due to puberty-related changes in hormones. Raised levels of sex hormones increases blood circulation to the gums. As a result, gums become more sensitive and easily irritated by food fragments and plaque. This leads to swelling, abnormal redness, and tenderness.

Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible with improved oral healthcare habits, such as daily brushing and flossing, healthier eating, adequate hydration, and regular cleanings.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis occurs if gingivitis is not treated. It involves varying degrees of inflammation of the gum tissue around the teeth, infection, loss of connective tissue holding the teeth in place, and bone loss. The gums shrink back and the teeth can become loose.

Periodontitis risk is increased by: poor oral hygiene; an unhealthy diet or malnutrition; and certain medical conditions, such as Type I diabetes, Down syndrome, Kindler syndrome, and Papillon-Lefevre syndrome.

Professional dental treatment is required to address periodontitis and prevent further damage to your child’s mouth!

Preventing Gum Disease

Typically, gum disease is preventable with good oral hygiene. Establish good brushing and flossing routines with your children from the time they are very young and model good dental hygiene yourself. It’s harder to monitor the oral hygiene habits of teens, but remind them that daily brushing and flossing are essential, particularly during puberty to prevent bone and tissue damage.

Additionally, supply your children with a balanced diet of nutritious foods, help them learn to moderate their consumption of processed foods and treats high in sugar, and encourage them to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Early Detection

Early intervention is important for successful treatment of periodontal disease. And regular dental visits for professional cleanings and examinations allow for early detection of gum disease! Our pediatric dentists will check your child’s gums as part of our examination.

We can also identify any tooth abnormalities or problem areas. For example, large crevices in teeth create places where food can get trapped, which contribute to gum disease. Your child may benefit from tooth-colored sealants to protect these grooves from decay.

Schedule Your Child’s Checkup!

In honor of February’s focus on gum disease and children’s dental health awareness, contact our friendly team at Tots to Teens Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics in Laredo, TX, for an appointment to safeguard your child’s oral health.

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