How to Treat Gum Disease in Children and Teens

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry, Dental Tips | 08.30.2022

Parents love nothing more than to see their children smile. But that beautiful sight can quickly turn into a cause for concern if your child’s gums are showing signs of infection.

According to Boston Children’s Hospital, gum disease in kids far more common than most might assume. The BCH states that 50% of kids will develop gum disease and 75% of all people will develop gum disease at some stage in their life. That means that kids are, in fact, likeliest to get some form of gum disease.

Fortunately, with a little regular dental and oral care, you can enjoy your child’s smile without having to worry about their gums.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease—or what your child’s dentist calls periodontal disease—is a bacterial infection of the gums. The infection can range from mild to severe, requiring varying levels of treatment to correct.

Gum disease destroys gum tissue and the supporting “infrastructure”. It causes tooth decay which ultimately leads to cavities—or dental caries—and, eventually, even destruction of the tooth root. In severe cases, gum disease can lead to permanent tooth loss and the need for more invasive corrective procedures.

What causes gum disease?

There are many causes of gum disease but they all, essentially, stem from poor oral health. The main cause of periodontal disease is dental plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth and gums.

Bacteria builds up on our teeth and gums all the time and, if left alone, hardens into tartar—a mineralized buildup of bacteria that only your dentist can remove. Brushing and flossing is the best way to regularly remove plaque buildup before it can harden into tartar and cause infection.

Certain factors can increase your child’s chances of developing gum disease. Poor diet, lack of exercise, poor oral hygiene, diabetes, genetics, autoimmune disorders, puberty, bruxism and some medications can all increase your child’s risk of developing gum disease.

A recent study found some evidence to suggest that vaping—popular with youth and teens—does increase the risk of developing gum disease.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

The symptoms of gum disease vary depending on the severity of the infection. Most children have a milder form on gum disease called gingivitis but, if left untreated, gingivitis can become more severe.

Children and teens are less likely to be able to describe their discomfort in detail so parents have to keep a keen eye on their children’s teeth. The symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Swelling and inflammation of the gums
  • Bleeding while brushing and flossing
  • Receding gumline
  • Change in biting and chewing habits
  • Pus between teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Large or widening spaces between teeth

It’s easy to mistake gingivitis and periodontal disease with other oral and dental health related issues. If you believe that your child has gingivitis, the best thing to do is to book an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist.

Your child’s dentist will conduct a careful examination and, if necessary, an x-ray to determine the extent of any possible infection.

How is gum disease in children and teens treated?

As with most other diseases, early detection and treatment of periodontal disease is the best remedy to restore a healthy smile. How, exactly, your child’s dentist will treat their infection depends on their age, medical history, severity of infection and overall health.

  • Oral and Dental Cleaning

For milder cases of periodontitis, your child’s dentist will likely only need to perform a routine dental cleaning. Nevertheless, the presence of gingivitis could be an indicator that your child either needs to make more regular trips to the dentist’s office or that they need to make adjustments to their dental care routine.

During this visit, your child’s dentist will perform a “deep clean” on your child’s teeth called scaling and root planing. This procedure involves the removal of hardened plaque and tarter from the surface of the teeth and the underlying tooth roots and hard tissues that have become infected with bacteria.

  • Antibiotics

If simple scaling and root planing aren’t sufficient to treat a gingival infection, then your child’s dentist may prescribe medication. Antibiotics will work to kill the bacteria causing the infection. The medication can either be topical, i.e., applied to the site of infection, or oral in the form of antibiotic pills.

It’s important that your child’s dentist know their medical history and their overall health so that they can prescribe the right antibiotics for your child.

  • Surgery

In more severe cases, your child’s dentist may have to perform oral surgery. Root canals, guided tissue regeneration, flap surgery and gum grafts are just some of the procedures that your child’s dentist may recommend.

Your child’s dentist should also take measures to prevent gum disease from worsening or recurring such as upgrading your child’s dental care tools or scheduling follow-up appointments.

Treehouse Dental Brightens Smiles

The best way to keep your child’s smile healthy and free of infection is to ensure that they stay on top of their regular brushing and flossing. At Treehouse Dental, we specialize in helping your child to smile as brightly as they can. Book your child’s next appointment with us today and prevent gum disease from ever taking root!

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