Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease, and is an infection of the gums surrounding your teeth.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque (a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups), it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. Most of the time gingivitis in children is plaque induced and can be treated by good oral hygiene practices. However changes in hormones, like onset of puberty can increase the signs of gingivitis.
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or be removed by a dentist. Periodontitis is not common in children but when it happens it tends to be very aggressive and progresses rapidly. Periodontitis can also be the manifestation of systemic diseases, if your dentist suspects of any medical cause a referral to the appropriate doctors will be made.
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
Preventing Gum Disease
Regular dental checkups are important for maintaining your child's health. Make sure you help your child to practice good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce their chances of ever getting gum disease. Remember to brush and floss their teeth regularly, serve them a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits to help keep their smile healthy.