If your child complains that his or her young gums are sore, tender, or bleed after brushing or flossing, these might be warning signs of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. The word "periodontal" comes from the Greek meaning "around the tooth." Healthy gum tissue and bone support each tooth.
Young gum disease threatens the support system that healthy teeth need. If not treated, it can lead to serious problems including tooth loss.
Certain types of bacteria found in plaque (that sticky film in the mouth) create toxins. This irritates the gums, causing tenderness and bleeding. As gums loosen around teeth, little pockets form and fill with plaque. If left untreated, the toxins destroy the tissues surrounding the teeth. This can lead to further complications, so it's important to treat young gum disease promptly.
Good daily pediatric dental care is essential. If plaque isn't removed completely every 24 to 48 hours, it hardens into tartar, that can only be removed by pediatric dental care professionals.
Brushing twice a day and cleaning between teeth helps to remove plaque. If children are too young to brush themselves, they will need your help. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
Clean between teeth with dental floss or interdental cleaners (special picks, brushes, or sticks) to remove food particles trapped between teeth and plaque. Anytime two teeth touch, they must be cleaned in between. Tooth decay and young gum disease often starts in these areas, so flossing is very important! Teach children how to floss and help them until they're old enough to do it themselves.
Teens, ages 12 or older, can use an anti-microbial mouth rinse approved by the American Dental Association. This helps in controlling the plaque that forms above the gum line. These rinses are available only by prescription from your pediatric dentist.
Regular pediatric dental care check-ups and cleanings, usually about twice a year, help to remove the plaque that hardens into tartar under the gum line. Tartar can only be removed professionally.
In the early stages, proper pediatric dental care helps restore gum tissue along with plaque and tartar removal around the teeth. Your dentist will design a pediatric dental care program for your child's specific needs. Doing so will help prevent young gum disease.
By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO