Child Gum Disease

Gum Disease Has No Age Restrictions

People often mistakenly believe that periodontal disease is a natural event in the course of adult life. Periodontal diseases affect the gum and bones that support teeth. According to the American Dental Association, although it is mostly associated with adults, 39 percent of children in the United States are affected by some form of periodontal disease. The symptoms of periodontal disease in children are the same as adults - red, swollen bleeding gums, loose teeth and a receding gum line. Usually the earliest symptom is bleeding gums when teeth are brushed.

According to Dr. Peter Cabrera, a periodontist on staff at Childrens Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Children who have periodontal disease generally fall into three categories. The first category is children with systemic conditions such as diabetes, which weaken their defense system. The second category is children who take medications for problems ranging from epilepsy to kidney transplants. Medications for these conditions often cause gum overgrowth. Bacteria can become trapped, irritating gum tissue and initiating gum disease. The third group is otherwise healthy children with receding gums.

Regardless of the cause, the earlier children are treated the better. Parent's are encouraged to monitor their childrens oral health on a regular basis and discuss any concerns with their dentist.

  • Baby bottle tooth decay.

Parents often mistakenly believe that drinking from a bottle late at night cannot harm their children. Baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD) is a serious disease of rampant decay that occurs when a child is allowed to fall asleep with a bottle or walk around with a bottle all day. BBTD often leads to tooth loss, crooked permanent teeth and possible ear, speech and emotional problems.

According to pediatric dentist Dr. Marv Berman, "I see more cases of BBTD in my practice than ever before, Busy, working parents are tired, they don't want the baby to scream so they give in and let them keep the bottle". If you must give your child a bottle at bedtime, fill it with water.

  • Wisdom tooth removal.
The decision to remove third molars or "wisdom teeth" is more complex than many people think. If there is enough room for them to erupt and no problem exists, then there is no reason to take them out. However, unlike first and second molars which erupt around ages six and twelve respectively, third molars often do not have enough space to erupt properly. These teeth are also more likely to be associated with decay, gum disease, infections, cyst formation and crowding of other teeth. If you see there is an existing problem and it is determined that the tooth should be removed, the earlier it is removed the better. According to Dr. Mike Stohle, an oral surgeon in Evanston, Illinois, "third molars removed before the age of twenty four generally have less complications...recovery time is shorter, there is less swelling, less discomfort and a reduced likelihood of nerve involvement. By age twenty four, the third molars have completely developed and as it develops the root gets closer to the nerve. All of this provides for a more complicated, and possibly painful, removal".


Dr. Stephen Petras

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