Keep Your Child’s Gums Healthy
When we consider their oral health, we tend to think of our children’s teeth most often. But their gums should be on our minds as well. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is not uncommon in children, and it can signify more than just a little redness.
Although gingivitis is a condition unto itself, if left untreated it also can lead to more serious periodontal (gum) disease. Gingivitis can run in families, but whether it has affected other relatives or not, you and your child should check regularly for these gingivitis symptoms:
- Bleeding: Gums may bleed with the gentlest brushing or flossing, or even at other times.
- Color changes: Gums may be red-purple or bright red, possibly with a shiny appearance.
- Swelling: A puffy appearance may accompany tenderness.
- Bad breath: If bad breath (halitosis) does not go away with vigilant flossing and brushing, gingivitis may be the cause.
- Receding gums: When gums recede, more of the front surface of the teeth than normal is visible, potentially exposing the roots.
If one or more of these symptoms exist, extra-vigilant oral care is the first line of defense to reduce inflammation, starting with a professional cleaning and evaluation. Afterward, even though gums may remain sensitive for one to two weeks, strict adherence to brushing and flossing routines has to begin. Mild anti-inflammatory pain medicine may help during this time. In addition, rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash or warm salt water may reduce the chance of recurrence. In severe cases, specialized therapies can be used to keep disease from spreading to nearby tissues and tooth-supporting bone.
As boys and girls reach puberty, circulating hormones increase blood flow to the gums, resulting in greater sensitivity. Flossing, for instance, may hurt more, as may food particles or plaque. While the sensitivity is real and understandable, and may last for a while, your child needs to maintain good oral habits.
Helping children to remember that their gums will always be as important as their teeth is a lesson worth its weight in gold—or a lifetime supply of floss.
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