gum health in kids

Most of the questions that we get from parents of pediatric dental patients in Portland focus on the teeth. However, gum health in children, especially when children’s teeth are developing, is just as important as the teeth themselves.

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Gingivitis in Kids

Just like adults, babies, kids, and teens can get gingivitis. But what is gingivitis anyway? Gingivitis is an initial form of gum disease that causes the gums to be inflamed and is a result of plaque build-up and poor oral hygiene.

Signs of gingivitis in the gums include:

  • redness,
  • swelling
  • bleeding (especially when brushing and flossing), and
  • tenderness

The build-up of plaque on the teeth and gums is what causes gingivitis. The bacteria found in the plaque produces toxins, which causes the gums to become red, inflamed, and have possible bleeding.

Fortunately, gingivitis can resolve within about one to two weeks with good oral hygiene and other preventive measures.

Thorough brushing along the gumline two times per day for two minutes and daily flossing is an easy way to decrease your child’s risk for getting gingivitis (and cavities too).

Not fully removing plaque (especially at the gumline) is one of the most common causes of gingivitis.

If your child presents with red, swollen, and bleeding gums we recommend that you check on their brushing to ensure they aren’t missing any spots, regardless of your child’s age.

Here are a few good tricks to help coach your child to brush better along their gumline:

  • Brush in front of the mirror so they can visualize where the toothbrush bristles are touching
  • Make funny faces in order to move the lips out of the way so they can actually see the gumline!
  • Tell your child that the toothbrush bristles should touch where the pink and white part meet (as in the pinks of their gums and the whites of their teeth)

Gingivitis Around Loose Baby Teeth

Another common reason area to develop gingivitis is around loose baby teeth that aren’t getting brushed thoroughly enough. Brushing loose baby teeth can sometimes be uncomfortable, so kids get very protective of the loose tooth and often avoid brushing in these areas.

However, there is risk for gingivitis (or cavities) when the permanent tooth is trying to grow in and the loose baby tooth is not being brushed at all.

A slow gentle brush in those areas is a good way to keep the area clean and not cause too much discomfort.

Bleeding at the Gumline

Another important topic to note about gingivitis is the bleeding of the gums during brushing and flossing. Bleeding may be startling, but it is important to keep brushing two times a day and flossing daily at night.

Early bleeding along the gums often looks worse than it is, but produces little discomfort to the patient. Only when bleeding becomes extreme does it produce tenderness.

Luckily, the bleeding should stop within one-two weeks once the gingivitis has resolved.

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Advanced Gum Disease in Kids

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to an advanced gum disease called periodontitis. Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease that spreads to the underlying bone and breaks down the bone in your jaw. In severe instances, periodontitis can lead to tooth morbidity and tooth loss, even to permanent teeth.

Luckily periodontitis is relatively rare in children. However, without proper hygiene practices early on in life, your child may be at risk for developing periodontitis as a teenager or young adult.

Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis is not reversible and is a chronic condition that requires a lot of maintenance, including longer and more frequent dental cleanings.

Taking the Time to Care

Early education and awareness of the different types of gum disease is key to help promote good oral hygiene that will last a lifetime.

At Fox Kids Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we spend time with both you and your child, assessing overall gum health and helping coach you to effective ways you can improve the health of your child’s gums.

checking child's gums

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Does your child need a pediatric dental appointment? Call us at 503-223-5039 to schedule your visit to our downtown Portland location!

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This blog serves to provide general information about dentistry topics to help answer your questions. The above content is for informational purposes but is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice from a licensed pediatrician or pediatric dentist. If you have a dental concern for yourself, your child or another adult, please schedule a consultation with us so you can speak with a dentist.

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