Remember back in October when we first published this blog post? We know you went ahead and adorned your front lawn with pumpkins and cobwebs for the Halloween season! Speaking of Halloween, one of the scariest things to ever enter our home is already lurking about – gum disease and gingivitis in kids.
It can happen at any point, but after a long summer of sweet ice cream and roasting s’mores, parents may feel a bit worried about their child’s dental health. Those nights the kids stay up and forget to floss sure come back to haunt us all. The season won’t matter. Maybe it’s just some great cold lemonade during Spring or pumpkin spice lattes during Fall, but there’s always some sugary food or drink that keeps us up at night and helps bacteria grow in your kids’ mouths.
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against us. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease, is so prevalent that approximately half of all Americans have it. Still, that’s a statistic we don’t like here, and just because gum disease is highly prevalent, your kid shouldn’t have to deal with it on their own.
Gingivitis is entirely preventable with proper brushing and flossing. Seeing as we’re heading into the season of pumpkin spice and candy corn, it’s the perfect time to face your fears about gum disease before it’s too late. The best pediatric dentist Aurora parents have available can help explain how gum disease works. How to get rid of gingivitis? Let’s see.
Does My Child Have Gum Disease and Gingivitis?
Let’s start with the basics. Periodontal tissues are the softer tissues around the base of your child’s teeth. Periodontal complications refer to the infections that affect those tissues. Granted, there are several stages and complexity levels to gum disease. The mildest is gingivitis, and the most dangerous one is periodontitis.
You can tell your child has these problems if you notice bleeding gums when they floss or brush their teeth. Gum disease symptoms include:
- Tooth sensitivity,
- Persistent bad breath,
- Bleeding around gums when flossing, brushing, or eating,
- Red, puffy, swollen, inflamed gums,
- Receding gum line,
- Mouth sores,
- Loose teeth.
The three final elements in that list are symptoms of gingivitis, a severe dental health condition that can result in tooth loss, and generalized bacterial infections. Call a certified dentist immediately if either you or your child experiences any such symptoms. Your kid’s dentist will do everything they can to save their dental structures.
In most cases, it may only be a mild version of gum disease. Most people don’t even know they have gingivitis until they visit the dentist because they don’t floss. In that sense, gum disease really is like a ghost! It’s just secretly hiding in your mouth, wreaking havoc while undetected.
That’s why it is essential to floss regularly. Brushing is great for removing plaque on the surface of the teeth, but most brushes can’t reach tight crevices between your teeth.
Bad Breath in Kids
Children and parents quickly notice when there are bad breath problems. Such a condition may not always result from periodontal problems, but it can be, and we should be very careful about it.
According to this article, bad breath is a problem that can also affect people’s social interactions. We know. Shocker. But We’re a little more worried about your child’s dental health.
In some cases, halitosis or bad breath will only be a morning breath problem that will quickly go away as soon as your child drinks some water. Still, it can also result from the bacteria buildup around your kid’s teeth.
These bacteria feed on leftover food particles caught between teeth. As they feed, they secrete acids that erode the enamel layer protecting teeth resulting in the onset of tooth decay.
If you notice your child has persistent bad breath, you should contact a pediatric dentist for an examination. This review will help determine if they require professional help to overcome tooth decay problems and prevent gingivitis. You can read this other blog post article about bad breath problems in kids.
Some kids might be very worried when they notice bleeding gums. In most cases, they will notice the bleeding during their oral care routine. As they brush their teeth or use dental floss, they may notice that the bleeding starts.
Usually, this bleeding could be the result of too much force during oral health care, but it could also signify another problem; Gingivitis and gum disease.
In adults, bleeding gums could result from the intake of some medications, like blood thinners, pregnancy, faulty dental restorations, implants, or dentures that don’t fit well and harm their gums. However, kids with bleeding gums could be victims of tooth decay and gum disease.
If your child has bleeding gums, seek help from a certified pediatric dentist in Aurora like our team at Epic Dentistry for Kids.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is the result of bacterial infection and plaque buildup. When plaque hardens, it becomes tartar. This tartar is hard and difficult to remove without professional assistance. It can cause an immune response and inflammation. Left untreated, the bacteria from gum disease can deteriorate your gums, teeth, and even bones! Yikes!
For those who don’t know, plaque is a sticky, clear mixture of bacteria, saliva, and acid. The bacteria feed on sugar in your food to create this acid.
Although everyone probably has some level of plaque on their teeth, not everyone has gum disease. Why is that? Well, if you are diligent with your oral hygiene, diet, and overall dental health, you can stop the plaque from building up around your gums. Below are the most common factors that contribute to gum disease:
1. Excessive Sugar
We hate to break it to you, but sugar is the #1 cause of cavities and gum disease, and tooth decay. Bacteria like sugar even more than you do, and they use it to wreck your teeth. And we’re not just talking about trick-or-treating candy sugar! Juice, bread, milk, and the like also contain carbohydrates that break down into sugar too.
2. Lacking Nutrition
Too much sugar is bad, but too little food is worse! Not getting enough nutrients from food can take a toll on your gums. Your gums need vitamins C & D, phosphates, iron, folate, calcium, and potassium to function well. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can also compromise your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight off infection from bacteria, no matter how small.
3. Irregular Brushing and Flossing
In theory, brushing and flossing are no-brainers, but in reality, it can be pretty tough for kids to remember the importance of their dental care routines. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around this one. If you don’t brush and floss properly, it’ll show on your gums. It only takes 24 hours for plaque to harden into tartar! Please remember to help your kids pick and use toothbrushes; they can help make the process much smoother. Soft-bristle toothbrushes can help them get started with proper oral hygiene. We can help you if you need help convincing your child to practice good oral hygiene.
4. Missed Dental Exams
The pediatric dentist can detect signs of gum disease and help you fight it, but only if you see them! Regular dental exams and cleanings are crucial for removing tartar in those hidden, hard-to-reach spots that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. The pediatric dentist can also show you how to brush and floss properly, so you know your efforts aren’t futile.
This is advice for parents. Products like chewing tobacco and cigarettes can damage your gums. They expose you to dangerous carcinogens that compromise your immune system and gum health. Even if you don’t consume sugar, you may suffer from gum disease if you smoke or chew tobacco every day. Your dental hygiene will greatly suffer if you consume tobacco products.
Okay, so you can’t control your genetics, but you can take extra precautions if you know you are genetically predisposed to getting gum disease. Some people are more likely to develop gum disease than others, but they can brush, floss, and eat with extra care to prevent that from happening. The right choice of fluoride toothpaste can help you maintain good oral health.
How Do I Get Rid of Gingivitis?
There’s no one-stop solution for getting rid of gum disease, but seeing the dentist can alleviate symptoms greatly. The most common treatments for gum disease include:
1. Dental Cleaning
Yes, it’s that simple. Professional cleanings are the perfect complement your child requires to protect their mouths and oral health. Preventing gingivitis demands daily treatment with brushing and flossing, but professional dental cleaning can improve your dental health. The dentist can see and clean problem areas that are causing the most distress. Since gum disease results from tartar buildup on or below the gum line, you can get that tartar professionally removed by the dentist.
2. Antibiotic Medication
Bacteria are to blame for gum disease. One way to get rid of the harmful bacteria is by using antibiotic medication prescribed by our own Dr. Patterson. This treatment can include a mouthwash, topical gel, or tablet. The medication will eliminate harmful bacteria in the mouth, thus reducing the amount of plaque on the gums. You can usually get this medicine at your local pharmacy in Aurora.
For periodontitis, gum surgery or bone and tissue grafts can restore the function of deteriorated teeth and bones.
How Do I Prevent Gum Disease?
Unlike chickenpox, gum disease does not go away indefinitely after getting rid of it the first time. If you are not consistently working to prevent gum disease, it may return.
To defeat gum disease, you have to nip it at the roots. Literally. Plaque tends to build up around and under the gum line, where it causes the gums to swell and bleed from irritation. To prevent this from happening, make sure to floss thoroughly below the gum line, getting as deep as you comfortably can.
Using antibacterial floss will help kill the bacteria that cause dental decay and gum disease. Most importantly, you have to practice flossing properly every day. Otherwise, the plaque will calcify into tartar, and by then, no flossing will be able to help your gums!
Your diet also affects your gum health. By maintaining a nutritious diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, you can prevent gum disease.
Events such as the nearing Halloween give children the perfect excuse to eat a bunch of harmful things that promote the buildup of plaque and periodontitis when these minor issues remain untreated. Promise us you intend to floss after your candy binge!
What Are Some Home Remedies for Gingivitis?
Since we’re on the topic of prevention, parents will rejoice to know there’s no better place to help their kids’ dental health than their own homes. Home remedies for gingivitis are more about prevention than correction.
As we’ve already mentioned, home remedies and tools are not powerful or specialized enough to remove more challenging obstacles and cannot reverse the more complex cases of gum disease.
However, some of these recommendations can help keep some symptoms at bay, provide relief, reduce the risk of harmful bacteria, and help kids maintain good oral health.
Salt Water Rinses
Using a salt water rinse can help a lot to reduce swollen or inflamed gums. Salt naturally disinfects the area and helps the body heal faster. This is a great way to kill gingivitis bacteria in your kids’ mouths.
You’ll need to add about ½ or ¾ teaspoon of salt to a glass with lukewarm water. Help your kid swish the solution in their mouth for about 30 seconds at a time and spit it out.
To make the mix even more powerful, you could try adding baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to treat gingivitis.
Make sure to repeat this twice or three times every day with your child and let their dentist know. Warn your kid not to swallow the solution and keep in mind to consult with their doctor as some patients, like those with high blood pressure, shouldn’t do salt water rinses too often.
Use Some Mouthwash
Other mouthwashes can help you a lot when it comes to treating gum disease and gingivitis at home. Please remember to warn your child not to swallow the mouthwash.
Also, you should be careful, as some homemade preparations may not be as refined or quality controlled as their commercial counterparts. Still, there’s some merit to these options, and you could try some of them. Ask your trusted orthodontist for some guidance.
You can try preparing a mouthwash for your kid by diluting one of the following ingredients in a cup of water:
- Lemongrass oil,
- Aloe Vera juice (this one does not require diluting in water),
- Tea tree oil,
- Fresh Sage (add to the water you’ve just boiled).
We’ll be as honest as we can here. There’s not enough supporting evidence to have the American Dental Association recommend this practice in treating cases of gingivitis in kids. Some studies, though, show promising results.
The technique has people rinse with an edible oil for a longer period, and it could help with bleeding gums. Please talk to your dentist before you try it.
Some of the options for this practice include:
- Coconut oil,
- Arimedadi oil,
- Olive oil,
- Sesame oil.
Contact Your Aurora Pediatric Dentist
If you have any more questions about gum disease, you can talk to our pediatric dentist in Aurora, Dr. Patterson. Leave the spooky scary stuff for Halloween, not your oral health, and bust your gingivitis today!