Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue in your mouth around your teeth. Infection occurs when plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) builds up and hardens on your teeth because of poor brushing and flossing habits. If you don’t brush and floss correctly and regularly, that plaque can harden into tartar, which only a professional cleaning at the dentist’s office can remove.
These types of dental problems are more commonly associated with aging. But the truth is that periodontal disease can start at a very young age, which is why it is important that your child begin their dental care right away and learn how to correctly care for their teeth.
What Age Does Periodontal Disease Begin?
Periodontal disease can affect people of all ages. It’s not just adults who don’t brush or floss their teeth correctly, or kids who eat too much candy that suffer from unhealthy gums. Even toddlers can develop periodontal diseases if they don’t receive regular check-ups from a dentist.
And while it’s true that many young children do not have their permanent teeth, the damage that is caused by periodontal disease can be long lasting and affect their dental health permanently even when it affects baby teeth.
Common Reasons that Children Develop Periodontal Disease
One of the reasons that gum disease is common in children is because children tend to be in a unique position for their teeth to get infections. For example:
- Poor Brushing/Flossing Habits – By far the most common reason for an increase in periodontal disease in children is that many have poor brushing and flossing habits at young ages. It is also not that uncommon for young children to skip brushing and flossing altogether when they think their parents aren’t looking. This can create the perfect environment for gum disease.
- More Sugar and Starches – Children these days also tend to eat more sugary foods than adults. Sugar really does create a great environment for the formation of bacteria, especially when combined with poor brushing habits. Starches, also, like burgers and fries, may contribute to disease.
- Braces – Children are more likely to have braces, and cleaning teeth with braces can be especially challenging for young people. It requires a lot of work – even more so if you are not yet visiting the dentist regularly.
- Smoking – Though the rate of youth smoking has thankfully decreased, there are still young smokers out there, and tobacco is a known contributor to gum disease.
These are only some of the many reasons that children of all ages may be at risk for developing this type of dental challenge.
It’s important that children know the best way to clean their teeth and gums so that they can build healthy habits early and continue them easily into adulthood.
How To Brush Your Teeth
A lot of children don’t know how long or with what method to brush their teeth in order to prevent periodontal disease. All you have to remember when it comes to keeping time is the number two; you should be brushing twice a day, for two minutes minimum each time. To make sure you’re cleaning all the areas of your mouth, follow this routine:
- Outer Surface of Upper Teeth. Make sure to tilt the brush at a 45 degree angle, brush the gum line gently, then sweep downward away from the gum.
- Outer Surface of Lower Teeth. Use short back-and-forth strokes.
- Inner Surface of Upper and Lower Teeth. Use the same short back-and-forth strokes as when cleaning the outer surface of the lower teeth.
- Clean the Chewing Surfaces. This area does a lot of work, so don’t forget to give it a good scrub.
- Brush Your Tongue. This freshens your breath and removes any harmful bacteria still in your mouth.
Make sure your child is not brushing too hard, for too long, with a toothbrush whose bristles are too stiff. Being overzealous with your toothbrushing can damage the enamel on your teeth. A soft-bristled brush and gentle, consistent brushing is enough to keep your mouth its cleanest.
How to Floss With Braces
It can be especially hard for children who have braces to make sure they’re brushing and flossing the right way. The wires and brackets that braces use to align the teeth make brushing and flossing a more involved process, but not an impossible one. There are more ways than ever now to make sure you keep your teeth and gums healthy while wearing braces:
- Waxed Floss. You can use a regular piece of waxed floss, which is less likely than unwaxed to catch and fray on the braces, to thread between the braces wires and floss as usual. A floss threader, which is sold near floss in most places, can help you with this.
- Dental Tape. This is floss that’s thinner and wider than regular floss, like a ribbon. For those with more sensitive gums, this can be a more comfortable option.
- Water Flosser. An orthodontist can recommend a specific model or brand of water flosser that will best suit the braces wearer’s needs. This tool shoots a thin stream of water between the teeth to clean.
- Proxy Brush. These are small, pointed, flexible brushes with little bristles on one end. It’s easy to insert these under the braces wire and push between the teeth to scrub them clean. These should be used with floss, not instead of it, because they can’t clean as thoroughly without floss.
Talk to your orthodontist as well about what they recommend depending on the type of braces you have.
Above All Else: See Your Dentist
It is so important that your child sees the dentist as much as possible in their early life. Doing so will both help make sure their mouth is as healthy as possible and reduce your child’s fear of the dental chair. Periodontal disease can occur at any age, so the sooner your child sees the dentist, the better.
Give Dr. George Chen and Dr. Christina Skelton a call today at 916-983-6051, and schedule an appointment for both you and your child.