Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, is caused by poor oral hygiene, like not brushing your teeth for long enough or forgetting to floss. This allows plaque and bacteria to remain on the teeth, which irritates the gums. When gingivitis isn't treated, it turns into periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease. This doesn't just happen to adults; even children can develop periodontitis. Here's what parents need to know about this condition.
Are there different types of peridontitis?
There are two main types of periodontitis: chronic and aggressive. Chronic periodontitis is the type that usually affects adults. It develops slowly, and while it destroys the gum tissue, bones, and ligaments, it doesn't do it quickly. Aggressive periodontitis is the type that children usually get, and it's so prevalent in children that dentists call it juvenile periodontitis. This type develops quickly and causes rapid destruction of tissues. This is why periodontitis in children is a major concern.
How do you know your child has periodontitis?
If your child has periodontitis, you will notice that their gum tissue is swollen and is either red or purple. Your child may also tell you that their gums hurt, that pus is leaking from their gums, or that they have a bad taste in their mouth. You may also notice a bad smell coming from their mouth; this is caused by the destruction of tissues. Their teeth may become loose, and in severe cases, may even fall out. These symptoms are present in both chronic and aggressive periodontitis, and if you notice these symptoms, you need to take your child to a dentist immediately.
Do lots of children get periodontitis?
Studies have shown that 82.1% of American children have gingivitis, which is a concern because, if they don't get treatment, their condition may progress to periodontitis. The risk of this happening increases as children get older. Only 0.6% of children between 13 and 15 years old have developed periodontitis, while 2.75% of children between 16 and 17 years old have developed the condition.
How do dentists treat periodontitis?
There are many treatments available for periodontitis. The first step in treatment is to address the root cause of the condition by thoroughly cleaning the teeth and gums. This thorough cleaning is called scaling and root planing. During the scaling portion, the surfaces of the teeth and beneath the gums will be scraped clean with metal instruments. During the root planing portion of the treatment, the roots of the teeth will be smoothed to discourage the buildup of plaque and bacteria.
If scaling and root planing doesn't work, other treatments are available. Antibiotics may be necessary to fight off the bacteria in the gums. Antibiotics can be given in the form of mouth rinses, gels, or pills. Surgery can also be required to treat more stubborn cases of periodontitis; dentists can perform many surgical procedures to treat periodontitis, but these are more of a last resort treatment.
What happens if it's not treated?
If periodontitis isn't treated, the destruction of the tissues will continue, and eventually, the bones and ligaments beneath the teeth won't be strong enough to support the teeth. This leads to tooth loss. Studies have shown that people with untreated periodontitis lose teeth at higher rate than people with treated periodontitis; they lose an average of 0.32 teeth every year.
Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss, but fortunately, there are many treatments available. If you think your child has periodontitis, take them to the pediatric dentist right away, before the condition has a chance to get any worse.