Bleeding Gums in Children: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
A range of issues can cause occasional bleeding gums in children. These include brushing or flossing the teeth too hard, poorly fitted dental devices, vitamin deficiencies, and more. Once you’ve tried a few simple solutions, most patients can expect things to return to normal relatively quickly. (1)
Simple solutions for bleeding gums in children
Depending upon exactly what caused the bleeding, some solutions could include:
- Check the bristles on your child’s toothbrush. They should be labeled soft or extra soft on the package. If they’re too firm, they can cause bleeding.
- Make sure your child knows how to brush gently. Help them by demonstrating if necessary. Brushing too hard can cause bleeding.
- Consider an electric toothbrush for kids. They’re fun to use and the pressure can be automatically adjusted.
- If your child just started flossing, give it at least a week for them to get used to it. If they still bleed while flossing after 7- 10 days, it is best to contact us to discuss the situation.
- Visit the dentist or orthodontist and ask if they can adjust the child’s dental devices. If they no longer fit well, these might cause pain or bleeding.
- Speak to your child’s doctor about any nutritional changes necessary. Deficiency in vitamin C can lead to bleeding gums, as can medications like blood thinners.
A simple solution from above is likely to work. However, if the bleeding continues or worsens, there may be other, more serious problems to consider, such as gingivitis. In this case, it’s likely that a call or visit to the dentist is in order to determine the cause.
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
If the part of your child’s gums closest to their teeth is irritated, swollen, receding, bleeds easily when teeth are brushed, or red (they should be coral pink), they may have a common form of gum disease called gingivitis.
Gingivitis begins when plaque created by bacteria builds up and is not removed at the gum-line part of the tooth. Plaque is an irritant. If left in that area, the chronic irritation causes gingivitis.
Considered the mildest and earliest form of periodontal disease/gum disease, gingivitis is easily reversible as it normally doesn’t cause any loss of bone or tissue that secures the teeth into their place in the mouth. While it is usually mild and easily treated, it’s important to bring the condition to the attention of your child’s dentist right away in order to prevent more serious complications from developing (1).
What are the causes and risk factors of gingivitis?
Poor oral hygiene is the most common and easily rectified cause of gingivitis. Good oral hygiene should include brushing at least twice daily (after each meal is ideal), flossing once daily, and visiting the dentist regularly. We recommend that patients keep appointments every six months from the time their first tooth erupts so they can have thorough examinations and cleanings on a regular basis.
Every effort should be spent encouraging children to improve their oral hygiene habits during their early years so that gingivitis can be prevented through puberty and adulthood.
Other risk factors associated with gingivitis can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. Some of these risk factors include:
- Poor nutrition, especially a lack of vitamin C, or if the child is regularly consuming sugary foods and beverages leading to plaque build-up
- Chronic, ongoing stress can lead to a weakened immune system, contributing to gum disease over time
- For teenagers or adults, other factors can be involved too, such as tobacco use and hormonal changes
- Teeth grinding, which may also be attributed to stress
- Certain medications
- Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and other medical conditions
What are some of the treatments used for bleeding gums or gingivitis?
As your dentist examines your child’s gums at their appointment, they will ask about your child’s medical history and may ask to take an x-ray. We may look for pockets around the teeth with a probe as well (2). Treatment options will be discussed and determined depending upon the type and extent of the problem.
Your dentist will probably instruct better brushing and flossing habits to begin with, as well as a possible antibiotic prescription if infection is present (3). Treatments involving a deep-cleaning plaque removal called root planing or scaling may be appropriate. Very advanced cases of gingivitis, although not likely for children, may require other procedures.
What are the best ways to prevent gingivitis?
The best way to avoid gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene. As discussed earlier, for children this usually means brushing at least twice daily (after every meal is optimal), flossing once daily, and keeping appointments with the dentist every 6 months.
Try an electric toothbrush and replace the bristles every 3 months. If you can’t do this, use a regular toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles, changing out every 3 months as well.
Use a natural mouth rinse daily.
Be aware of the foods your child eats. Food plays a huge role in gum health. Limit sugar intake in the diet as much as possible.
Keep children away from tobacco smoke.
What are some consequences of not treating the issue/ complications that could arise?
If left untreated, gum disease can worsen and cause further problems, making it even harder to treat as time goes on. The bacteria involved could spread further into the bones and connective tissue of the mouth, leading to tooth damage and eventual tooth loss. Worsening bacterial buildup can also contribute to the cause of other health problems over time, such as heart disease.
Aside from the physical complications that can arise, poor oral hygiene has been linked to missing school and worsening academic performance. This connection was noted across household income, age, and health insurance factors.
It may sound scary to consider your child having a problem like gum disease, but remember that if caught soon enough, treatment is usually simple, and any damage is reversible. For best results, maintain good contact with us and follow all treatment suggestions, including keeping your child’s appointments. Is your child due for an appointment? Give us a call to schedule your child’s next appointment or discuss any concerns.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
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Gum (Periodontal) Disease Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info.
Gum Disease (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Sept. 2014, kidshealth.org/en/teens/gum-disease.html.