At Children & Teen Dental of Alabama, we know that nothing is more important to you than the health and safety of your child. Any time you notice an abnormality with your child (such as being in pain or not feeling well), it’s never good.
When it comes to your child’s oral health, there are a wide variety of problems that can lead to unhealthy teeth and gums. Of course, just like with any disease or medical condition, catching it early is essential to improving treatment outcomes.
In this article, we’re going to share seven problems with teeth and gums that we see almost every day, and in many cases, they are signs of unhealthy teeth or gum disease that requires appropriate treatment.
First...What is Gum Disease (also Called Periodontal Disease)?
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, there are essentially two types of periodontal disease:
Gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease and is reversible.
Periodontitis, which is a more advanced form of gum disease that can lead to significant health issues.
Obviously, if your child has gingivitis you want to remedy the situation before it ever reaches the stage of periodontitis.
In order to effectively care for your child’s teeth and gums, it’s imperative that you make brushing and flossing a daily habit (your child should be brushing his/her teeth 2-3x a day and flossing at least once daily), and visit a pediatric dentist every six months for a routine cleaning and oral exam.
The bottom line-- while gum disease is preventable, if left untreated it can turn into something quite ugly and damaging to your child’s health. In fact, recent research suggests there may be a link later in life between periodontal disease and serious health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, which you can read more about below:
When are Teeth Considered “Unhealthy?”
While gum disease and unhealthy teeth often go hand in hand, our pediatric dentists often get asked, “What are a few signs I can look for to see if my child’s teeth are unhealthy?”
Here are a few:
Teeth that are sore, hurt, or cause pain in any way (this may be a “sharp” pain or a “dull” pain).
If you observe chalky, white areas around the gum line (this often happens in younger children when their teeth are just erupting from the gum line).
If teeth are loose (yes, children lose teeth, but if you observe any brown or black spots around the teeth in addition to them being loose, this could be a sign of abnormal or unhealthy teeth).
We’ll expand on some of these points below...
7 Warnings Signs of Gum Disease or Unhealthy Teeth:
1 Acute Pain in the Mouth or Jaw
If your child goes from happy and playing around to grabbing their jaw and crying, they probably have an infection or something going on with their wisdom teeth. When wisdom teeth erupt they can cause a significant amount of pain, or if it’s an infection, that can also be quite painful for your little one.
Bacteria doesn’t need much room to wreak havoc on your child’s teeth; just a small crack or hairline fracture can lead to bacteria entering the tooth where it can impact the surrounding bone, tissue, and nerves.
If you notice that your child is having significant pain in his/her mouth or jaw region, it’s important to see a pediatric dentist immediately, as a dental infection can spread and become very serious. Don’t wait or ponder what you need to do; just call a pediatric dentist close to you.
2 Swollen or Bleeding Gums
Your child’s gums may be a little sensitive from time to time, but if you notice their gums bleed regularly and often look red, inflamed, or swollen that’s a major red flag.
Your child’s gums should be a very “calm” pink color, not an “angry” red color. You also want to take a look and see if their gums have a relatively consistent color throughout. If you notice a certain area is red or inflamed, then it could be a sign of gum disease or dental infection.
Here is an oral hygiene resource we have put together for our patients on how they can help their children care for his/her teeth and gums:
3 Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Have you noticed that no matter how much your child brushes or uses mouthwash, their breath still doesn’t smell very good? This is obviously a problem from a health perspective, but it’s also a problem from a self-esteem perspective. You don’t want your child to grow up with a complex about their bad breath!
Bad breath is often caused by excessive amounts of bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria can live in gum pockets, between the teeth, and even on the tongue. In fact, many people (from small children to adults) will use a tongue scraper to remove excess bacteria from their tongue.
If you notice that your child has chronic bad breath (known as halitosis), you definitely want to schedule a dental appointment with a pediatric dentist for a thorough cleaning and an oral health exam.
4 Excessive Space Between Teeth
When parents think about space between their kids teeth, they often think one thing: braces.
While orthodontic treatment may be necessary for your child, too much space between the teeth can actually lead to gum disease, as well. You see, evenly-spaced teeth can help to protect the gum line from periodontal disease.
However, when a significant amount of the gum line is open, it can expose parts of the gums to bacteria. It’s always important for a child to brush and floss, but if your child has gaps between his/her teeth, it’s possibly even more important!
5 Loose or Discolored Teeth
Children lose their baby teeth and then their permanent teeth come in shortly after. That much we all know. However, if you notice that one or more of your child’s teeth is discolored, it could be a sign of a more significant issue (nerve damage, infection, etc.).
So if you notice that any of your child’s teeth are a different color, it’s worth having him/her checked.
6 Teeth that are Sensitive to Cold or Hot Liquids
We all have days where our teeth are a little sensitive, but if this becomes an ongoing issue for your child then it could be linked to a decaying tooth, which can then impact the nerves and tissue surrounding that tooth.
So, if your child complains that his/her teeth “hurt” or are sensitive when drinking hot or cold liquids, then it’s definitely time to see a pediatric dentist.
7 Recurring Mouth Ulcers
Mouth ulcers are miserable for adults and children alike. While doctors aren’t really sure what causes them, if your child is experiencing painful, recurring mouth ulcers then it’s important to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist. If you happen to be in Alabama near Tuscaloosa or Oxford, we would love to see you!