Why Do Kids Get Gingivitis?

It’s estimated that anywhere from 50-75% of children have some degree of gingivitis. During kids’ dental exams in Vista, our pediatric dentist routinely screens for signs of periodontal disease and gum inflammation. Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible if caught early enough. By understanding the causes of periodontal disease, parents and caregivers can give children a head start on enjoying a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

What Causes Gum Inflammation?

Imagine for a moment that your child fell and skinned their knee on the playground at school. They forgot to say anything about it and you didn’t notice anything until the weekend. By that point, it had been a few days and the wound hadn’t been cleaned. Chances are you’d see some puffy, red skin because of their immune system flushing antibodies to that space to combat the germs.

Gingivitis is almost identical to an infected cut or scrapes on your skin. Only in this case, it’s caused by dental plaque resting next to the gums for too long. If it isn’t cleaned away, the body reacts to a bacterial infection and the gums become extremely swollen, red, and begin to bleed.

Treatment for Pediatric Gingivitis

The good news is that gingivitis is preventable. Knowing how to take proper care of your kid’s teeth and gums is essential! But as your child grows and they take on a more independent role in their oral hygiene, some occasional gingivitis is to be expected.

Follow the following tips to reverse gingivitis (usually within two weeks):

  • Brush twice a day for a minimum of two minutes at a time. The easiest way to prevent or reverse gingivitis is through a modified brushing routine. Make a point to take your time, brushing closely along the gumlines on each tooth. Small circular motions work best for younger children, while teens do better with short, gentle strokes back and forth (no scrubbing!) Angle the toothbrush slightly toward the gums to stimulate the tissues as plaque is cleaned away.
  • Floss daily. Brushing doesn’t clean the spaces between teeth, where gums easily become infected and cavities start. Kids can usually start with a floss pick or disposable flosser until their dexterity gets a bit better. If your child is in braces, consider upgrading to a water flosser instead.
  • Snack smart. Processed carbs tend to cause more plaque development, which means more irritants to the gums. Instead of packaged crackers, chips, or similar snacks, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, sharp cheese, or nuts.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water is a natural cleanser and won’t feed plaque the same way that juices or sports drinks will. Send your child to school with a refillable bottle to keep their mouth hydrated and fresh during the day.

If your child doesn’t respond to improved home care, periodontal treatment for kids will usually include a professional cleaning and occasionally medication. If an autoimmune disorder is involved, there could be early signs of aggressive periodontitis, such as bone loss and gum pocketing. Although rarer than gingivitis (in children) these scenarios require expert dental treatment to avoid tooth loss and secondary medical concerns.

A Note About Bleeding

One of the most common symptoms of gingivitis is bleeding gums. It’s natural for the gums to bleed if they are infected. Don’t let bleeding be a deterrent for brushing and flossing. Continue cleaning the area daily, as you can usually expect your child’s bleeding gums to gradually improve a little more each day. After about two weeks of dedicated brushing and flossing the gums should not bleed. If they do, it’s time to see a pediatric dentist.

Bleeding Gums? Call Our Pediatric Dentist

The team at All Smiles Children’s Dentistry is committed to empowering kids and their families with the knowledge they need to have healthy smiles for life. If it’s been over six months since your child’s last exam and dental cleaning, contact our pediatric dentist in Vista today!

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