In your quest to protect your children’s dental health, you’ve likely spent plenty of time focusing on their teeth and gums. From pint-sized character toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste to colorful flossers, you’ve made sure they’re brushing and flossing as they should. This is a great investment in your little ones’ future! The dental care routine your children learn today can help them establish a lifetime of healthy habits.
In addition to helping them ward off cavities, these steps can also help prevent periodontitis, or gum disease, as they get older. As your trusted family dentist, we’re here to help you on this journey! Today, we’re taking a closer look at the connection between gum health and overall health and showing how you can help your little ones keep both in check, starting today.
What is periodontitis?
Before we discuss its wide-reaching effects, let’s go over what periodontitis entails and what can cause it to occur.
While this is largely an adult-onset issue, it helps to learn about the condition while your children are still young. This way, you can teach them the importance of instilling a great dental routine as early as possible!
In short, periodontitis is a severe gum infection that affects the soft tissue in the mouth. In most cases, it affects adults who follow poor oral hygiene practices. If someone fails to brush, floss, and attend regular dental checkups, excess plaque can accumulate on their teeth.
If this happens, it can harden under their gum line and become tartar. Tartar is harder to remove than plaque, and also contains harmful bacteria. As plaque and tartar remain on the teeth and gums, they can cause an onset of gingivitis or mild gum disease.
Gingivitis can cause the gums to become irritated and inflamed. Quick action can usually reverse this condition, but it’s best to ward it off before it occurs. Teaching your children how to brush and floss every day can help them keep plaque and tartar from building up in the first place, lowering their risk of developing gingivitis.
Without treatment, these symptoms can worsen and turn into periodontitis. Symptoms that commonly occur in adults include:
- Red, tender, or swollen gums.
- Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing.
- Ongoing bad breath.
- Gums that pull away or recess from teeth.
- Discharge between your teeth and gums.
- Teeth that feel loose or separated.
Eventually, pockets begin to develop between the teeth and gums, which become filled with plaque and tartar, as well as bacteria. As these deep infections continue to exacerbate, they can lead to bone and tissue loss. In time, this can even mean losing the affected teeth altogether.
Periodontitis and Your Overall Health: Understanding the Connection
So far, we’ve discussed how periodontitis affects the adult mouth. In addition to being painful, the condition can also affect one’s outward appearance. Thankfully, a dentist can reverse gingivitis and treat periodontitis. However, research shows that children who are taught good dental habits and visit the dentist frequently are at a lower risk of developing this condition.
In fact, fair to poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of periodontitis by two-fold to five-fold. When you teach your children how to properly care for their teeth and gums at an early age, you can help keep their dental health in check. As a result, you can also help them avoid the more serious and long-term consequences brought on by periodontitis.
There are two primary reasons why periodontitis can change from an isolated issue to a systemic one: immune system stress and bacteria. Let’s take a look at how each of these problems can affect your overall health.
Immune System Stress
Chronic inflammation strains the adult immune system. This is a simple fact, and it’s true regardless of where the inflammation occurs. Inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism and one of its first responses to any internal stressor. When it occurs for a short period of time, it’s known as acute inflammation.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation occurs when these symptoms linger for a long time. When this happens, the body continues to pump out white blood cells and special chemical messengers for as long as the underlying condition remains untreated. In other words, it believes that it’s under ongoing, constant attack and responds accordingly.
The only problem? As these white blood cells grow in number, they can begin to attack other, healthy tissues, and organs. At first, it may only trigger fatigue, yet, chronic inflammation can also heighten one’s risk of developing other chronic diseases, including:
- Blood vessel disease.
- Heart disease.
Brushing, flossing, and attending regular dental checkups are a critical part of keeping your child’s inflammation levels low. This is a smart step in protecting their immune system health as they grow.
Bacteria in the Bloodstream
Another reason why you should teach your children the importance of teeth and gum health? It’s an important part of keeping their bloodstream clean! If periodontitis occurs down the road, the bacteria that thrive in those pockets between the teeth and gum don’t always stay there, they can also enter the bloodstream through gum tissue. If this happens, it can affect other parts of the body. As bacteria move from the gums to other areas throughout the body, this shift can lead to a range of conditions, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Respiratory disease.
- Coronary artery disease.
In addition, it can also make it more difficult for the body to control blood sugar in adults who are diabetic. Over a long period of time, a compromised bloodstream can also slowly damage the blood vessels in the heart and brain.
While the long-term effects of periodontitis can be detrimental, the good news is that this condition is largely preventable. To keep gum disease at bay, make sure everyone in your family is following an established dental care routine. This especially applies to your children, who are setting the stage right now for a dental health routine that will carry them for life.
A great routine includes brushing your teeth for two minutes at least two times per day, using fluoride toothpaste. In addition, every family member can also use floss or interdental brushes to remove plaque and food from between their teeth. As long as you keep up these habits and visit your dentist for regular cleanings, you can help prevent the negative effects that accompany both gingivitis and periodontitis.
Your dentist can help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
You aren’t alone in your mission to protect the teeth and gums of your family members. No matter their age, our team at First Dental Associates is here to help you every step of the way.
Staying up-to-date on your children’s routine dental visits is a great step in the right direction. At these visits, our dentist can identify any issues before they snowball into bigger problems, including any initial signs of gum infection or inflammation.
We know you want to keep your brood as healthy as possible, and that includes taking excellent care of their oral health. To learn more about the services we provide or to schedule an appointment, feel free to contact us today.