South Shore Long Island
Periodontics & Implantology P.C.
Dr. Leslie G. Batnick, D.D.S.
Dr. Lois B. Levine, D.D.S.
Dr. Joo H. Kim, D.D.S.
Diplomates, American Board of Periodontology

Periodontal Disease in Children & Adolescents

When people think of gum disease, they usually think of the millions of Americans ages 35 and over who struggle with this chronic infection.

But children and adolescents can also develop periodontal disease, and it’s more common than you might think. In fact, recent studies have shown that the early stage of periodontitis, gingivitis, is nearly universally present in children and adolescents.


Why Does Periodontal Disease Occur in Children?

Periodontal disease in children can be attributed to a number of factors. Children are, of course, more likely to have poor oral hygiene habits. Just about any parent can attest to the need for repeated reminders to children to brush and floss their teeth! And those children who do brush and floss are often not using a good technique that involves their gums.

Hormonal changes in adolescence cause many children to develop periodontal disease. The increase in hormones causes increased blood flow to the gums. This increases gum sensitivity and an exaggerated inflammatory response to irritants like plaque and food particles.

Some children are genetically predisposed to early periodontal disease. If you developed periodontal disease at a young age, chances are good that your child will as well.

Many children develop periodontal disease during orthodontic treatment. The brackets and wires can easily build up plaque and it can be challenging to brush and floss around them, causing many children to do a substandard job.

Additionally, certain medical conditions, including as Down syndrome and diabetes, increase the risk for early development of periodontal disease.

Does My Child Have Periodontal Disease?

The signs and symptoms of periodontal disease in children are similar to those in adults. The most obvious signs are:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Puffy and bright red gums
  • Teeth that appear elongated due to gum recession
  • Bad breath

Periodontal disease is a serious health condition that should not be ignored. The chronic inflammation has been linked to other systemic health conditions, including diabetes and respiratory disease. It’s often been said that the mouth is a window to a person’s overall health. If you notice these signs of periodontal disease, please contact your dentist or our office to schedule an evaluation.

Treating Periodontal Disease in Children

Unless your child’s gum disease is quite severe, the first step is usually education to help improve home hygiene. Reminding children to brush their teeth often isn’t enough. Find ways to make brushing rewarding and build good habits. 

Your doctors and hygienists are happy to give you and your child a hands-on demonstration of good brushing and flossing technique. It’s not uncommon for children (and adults!) to brush their teeth but completely miss the gums. Even just changing the angle of the brush can help the bristles get right under the gumline where plaque and bacteria build.