If you notice a bit of pink in the sink when your child is brushing their teeth, it should not be ignored. Bleeding gums may be an early warning of gingivitis, an initial stage of periodontal disease.
The build-up of plaque is what causes gingivitis, but it is preventable and reversible. Bleeding gums may also be caused by other factors. Here’s a list of what to do and when to worry if you notice even the smallest amount of blood.
Assess if the regular dental routine has recently changed. If your child has just begun to floss, the gums may have an adjustment period, and you may notice blood on the floss and during rinsing. This should diminish within 10 days or less. Certain medications can also cause gums to become more sensitive and more prone to bleeding.
Check the toothbrush. Are the bristles bent or frayed? Worn-out bristles are less effective in removing plaque and bent bristles can also cause gum irritation. The most common cause for bleeding gums is plaque buildup along the gumline. This buildup causes irritation, like swelling, tenderness, and bleeding, which may worsen if you are not using an effective toothbrush.
Brush teeth with small, circular movements. Rushing the routine, pressing too hard against the teeth and gumline, and using a medium or hard bristle toothbrush may all contribute to bleeding gums. This is especially troublesome for children, as they often brush their teeth in a hurry and tend to press too hard using a back-and-forth motion. Choose soft bristles for the entire family (unless advised otherwise by your dentist), and encourage children to brush twice daily using a gentle, circular motion.
Evaluate children’s diet. While sugar is often considered as the likely culprit for tooth and gum problems, acidic sports drinks and foods also wreak havoc on children’s teeth and gums. Children and teens tend to love sports drinks and flavored water, and most often are not brushing their teeth right after consuming them, which allows the acid and sugars to settle in along the tooth and gumline. Over time, the sugars and weakened tooth enamel may lead to the formation of plaque, which may cause irritation and bleeding gums. Try to eliminate, or at least limit, the consumption of foods high in sugar and acid. Promote a healthy diet rich with natural foods and drink plain water as much as possible.
Bleeding gums are not normal and should go away within a week. If bleeding persists, it may be the early signs of gum disease. Brushing twice daily, and flossing at least once per day are the first line of defense against most causes of bleeding gums and irritation. Visiting your dentist every six months is the best way to ensure a healthy mouth and stop any gum disease in the earliest stages when it is very easy to treat.
Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington is a specialized dental office for children 0 to 18 and special-needs patients. They are located at 1112 Trinity Ln. in Bloomington and may be reached at 309-663-7339. Ask about their "No-Cavity Club" and the rewards kids may earn.
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