About gingivitis or gum disease
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. The gums get red and swollen and can bleed. It’s an early and mild form of gum disease.
Gingivitis happens when bacteria in the mouth create a sticky covering called plaque on teeth and around the gumline. These bacteria and the toxins they produce irritate the gums. If you don’t remove the plaque with regular teeth-brushing, it can harden into what’s called tartar. Tartar can attract more bacteria, leading to more gum inflammation.
Gingivitis is common in children of all ages.
Gingivitis is often called gum disease.
A common sign of gingivitis is bleeding gums, especially while brushing or flossing teeth.
Other symptoms can include red, swollen or tender gums and bad breath.
If your child has gingivitis symptoms like bleeding gums, they should keep brushing their teeth twice a day, especially along the gumline. Your child can also use waxed dental floss or an interdental brush to clean between their teeth once a day. This will help to remove the plaque and deal with gingivitis.
Medical help: when to get it for children with gingivitis
If gingivitis symptoms like bleeding gums haven’t stopped within 3-4 days of careful brushing and flossing or interdental brushing, or your child’s inflamed gums are painful, they should visit a dentist.
The dentist will tell you and your child how to manage gingivitis and stop it from getting worse.
If your child has signs of being generally unwell, like a fever or facial swelling and you think these might be because of dental problems, see your dentist or GP or go to a hospital emergency department straight away.
Gingivitis management and treatment
You can manage gingivitis at home by carefully brushing teeth and the gumline twice a day. It can also help to use waxed floss or an interdental brush to clean between teeth once a day.
If the gingivitis doesn’t go away, your child needs to see a dentist. Dentists can usually treat gingivitis by removing plaque and tartar from around the gums.
Occasionally, your dentist might say your child needs some extra treatment.
If left untreated, gingivitis can turn into a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause permanent damage to the gums and the bone supporting your teeth. It can cause pain, receding gums, tooth loss and bad breath.
Prevention of gingivitis
There are 2 key ways your child can prevent gingivitis.
1. Good dental care
- brushing teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush
- using low-fluoride toothpaste from 18 months to 6 years and regular toothpaste after that
- using waxed floss or an interdental brush to clean between teeth once a day.
2. Regular dental check-ups
Generally your child should start seeing the dentist by the time your child is one year old or when their first tooth comes through, whichever happens first.
These steps also help to prevent other dental problems like tooth decay.
Cleaning and caring for children’s teeth early on sets up good dental habits for life. And good dental health is important for overall health and development during childhood and later in life.