Effects on Children

Children & Periodontitis

relaxed child in dental chairNational Children’s Dental Health Month, which occurs every February, is being celebrated by the American Academy of Periodontology by educating both children and parents about the prevention of dental diseases, primarily periodontal disease, in children.

It is a common misconception that periodontal disease occurs solely in adults. However, children and adolescents alike show signs of gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Although rare, advanced forms of periodontal disease may be evident in children.

Types of Periodontal Diseases in Children

Chronic Gingivitis: Common in children. This disease generally leads to the swelling of gum tissue, causing it to redden and bleed easily. If you practice regular oral health by visiting a professional dentist and brush and floss on a daily basis, gingivitis is easily preventable and treatable. Still, if no attention is given to the progression of gingivitis, it can lead to a more serious case of periodontal disease.

Aggressive Periodontitis: Can affect young people who are otherwise healthy. Teenagers and young adults experience localized aggressive periodontitis primarily in their first molars and incisors. Though patients with the disease often form little plaque or calculus around the teeth, this form of periodontitis is known for severe loss in alveolar bone tissue.

Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis: May begin around puberty and can involve the entire mouth. It is characterized by gum inflammation and a heavy buildup of plaque and calculus. If left untreated, it can lead to loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontitis Associated with Systemic Disease: Occurs in children and adolescents, as well as adults. Children with the following conditions may be more prone to developing periodontal disease:

  • Type I diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Papillon-Lefevre syndrome

In a survey conducted over 263 Type I diabetics ranging in age from 11-18, 10% had overt periodontitis.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

Four basic signs can warn you of the formation of periodontal disease in your child:

Bleeding: Bleeding of the gums caused by brushing teeth, flossing, or anything else

Puffiness: Swollen/bright red gums

Recession: Gums that recede from the teeth that may reveal roots

Bad breath: Chronic bad breath that persists despite brushing and flossing

Adolescence and Oral Care

It has been shown that adolescents may experience increased heightened stages of periodontal disease, as they often lack the motivation needed to practice good oral hygiene. Youth who have good habits of brushing and flossing teeth on a regular basis are more likely to uphold their hygiene than those who are not taught proper techniques for oral care. Besides a decline in hygiene habits, changes brought about by puberty put adolescents at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. The sex hormones released during puberty lead to increased circulation of blood to the gums. In turn, gums may become more sensitive and prone to irritation, often becoming swollen, reddened, and tender.

As puberty progresses in adolescents, gum sensitivity will decline. Nonetheless, it is essential that teens practice good at-home oral hygiene and regularly visit their dentist for a professional cleaning. Periodontal therapy is available to prevent tissue and bone damage in the mouth and, if needed, will be recommended by a dental professional.

Advice for Parents

In order to successfully treat periodontal disease, it is imperative that its presence is diagnosed at its earliest stages. In addition to regular dental visits, children should undergo a periodontal examination to test for the disease. An advanced stage of periodontal disease often indicates systematic diseases in children. For this reason, a general medical evaluation is recommended for children with advanced periodontal disease.

It is important that you inform your dental professional about any medications that your children are taking, as many medications cause dry mouth and can lead to other potential threats to oral health.

Teeth grinding is a factor that leads to the development of periodontal disease. Besides causing cracked and chipped teeth, monitoring teeth grinding is important for its treatment that includes the use of custom-fitted bite guards used at night.

Research has found that saliva can carry periodontal disease. For this reason, it is important that all family members of someone diagnosed with periodontal disease see a dentist for a professional evaluation as common contact of saliva can put others at risk of developing the gum disease.

Practicing good oral health habits is the most effective way of preventing periodontal disease. Here are basic steps that are recommended for parents to take with their children to ensure good oral hygiene:

Establish habits of maintaining good oral hygiene early. You can begin using toothpaste when brushing your child’s teeth after 12 months of age. Still, be careful to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and take all possible steps to prevent your child from eating it. Once the gaps between your child’s teeth begin to close, flossing his/her teeth should be added to your child’s formation of healthy habits.

Be a good role model for your child by maintaining proper health habits and care.

Visit your dentist regularly, and schedule periodontal evaluations for yourself and your child.

Do an at-home examination for the progression of periodontal disease in your child. Symptoms include bleeding gums, swollen and reddened gums, a receding gum line, and chronic bad breath.

Work with your child to change any poor health habits, as it is much easier to change oral health habits in children than it is in adults. Your child will feel more confident about personal appearance if he or she has the right tools to maintain a healthy smile, good breath, and strong teeth.

Visit your periodontal dentist to attain more information on how to maintain good oral health habits in your child, or visit23 BabyTeeth.com.


CHICAGO February 28, 2000 Children with Down Syndrome (DS) are said to have a higher risk of developing severe periodontal inflammation. The Journal of Periodontology released a study today that periodontal bacteria appear in children with DS. These children have increased amounts of p.gingivalis, a bacteria that often leads to periodontal infection and gum disease. The research indicates that, though children with DS often experience gum tissue inflammation, they may be immune to gum disease for a few years until they reach their late teens and early 20s.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that children undergo a periodontal examination during regular dental visits. Advanced forms of periodontal disease, though rare, are possible to develop in children. An early diagnosis is imperative in restricting the advancement of the disease.


CHICAGO January 5, 2001 Research published in the Journal of Periodontology indicates that nearly one in seven 26 year olds have developed advanced forms of periodontal disease, which can lead to the loss of teeth in adults.

Studies conducted in New Zealand have been following approximately 1,000 children since birth between the 1972-1973 and assessing different components of their health. By age 26, 914 of the study participants showed signs of periodontal disease. Still more shocking, it was found that almost 75% of the sample had a receding gum line in at least one location.

Most commonly, middle-aged and older people are the center of focus in regards to periodontal disease. For this reason, gum disease is thought to only affect older patients.

The researchers stress the importance of younger people to check for periodontal disease regularly. If detected at an early stage, it can be treated and reversed. Chronic bad breath that persists despite brushing and flossing