Parent Tips for Preventing Periodontal Disease
Let’s look at some parent’s tips for preventing periodontal disease. It’s easy anymore to settle into a permanent state of anxiety as a parent, where everything can start to feel like a threat to your child’s wellbeing. It’s not enough to ensure they’re eating veggies, for example; they need to be organic. In fact, just to be totally safe, grow them yourself. As though you have the time.
But there are little things you can do early on in your child’s life that will save you a lot of time and trouble down the road. Instilling good oral health habits is one of them.
Periodontal disease is rare in kids and only sometimes found in adolescents, but it still needs to be on your radar. And that’s because it’s so easily preventable. A simple, daily regimen—more on that in a moment—combined with regular visits to your dentist is all it takes to prevent periodontal disease. Yet, it’s only becoming more pervasive in our society. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that half of American adults age 30 and older have periodontal disease.
Meet your risk factors
For starters, be proactive. But, then, you’re already reading this post, so let me rephrase that: Keep up the good work. A sound approach to nurturing good health basically breaks down into two categories: The stuff that falls within your control and the stuff that doesn’t. Because it draws our starting line to a large extent, let’s get into the latter first.
If you, your spouse, or anyone in your immediate families has periodontal disease—and, given the earlier statistic, there’s a pretty good chance that that’s the case—let your child’s dentist know. Recent research has shown that genetics may be a risk factor for developing periodontal disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). To what extent is still unclear. And before you become too concerned, there are lots of other factors that also play a role.
Now for the stuff you can control. Periodontal disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction to bacteria under the gums, which means that, technically, it’s not contagious. However, the bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction can be spread through saliva. Interestingly, the plaque profile that we see in children usually mimics the mom’s because they share the most contact.
The takeaway: If you’re showing signs of periodontal disease (bleeding, red and swollen gums, persistent bad breath), schedule an exam with a periodontist, and in the meantime, refrain from kissing your child on the mouth. And just to be on the safe side, don’t share flatware during family gatherings. Or toothbrushes. If you want to demonstrate to your toddler how to brush your teeth, get them their own toothbrush and practice on their teeth. It may make for a better visual to do yours and then theirs, but you’re creating an unnecessary risk.
Last among our potential threats to your child’s gums—and you can chalk this one up to Reason No. 77,846 to encourage a healthy diet—research has drawn a link between diabetes and periodontal disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal problems, possibly because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections, according to the AAP. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered one of the major complications of diabetes.
That relationship appears to be a two-way street; just as diabetes can increase someone’s chance of developing periodontal disease, research suggests that good periodontal hygiene may positively affect blood sugar levels.
Really, it’s that simple
So, aside from being on the watch for the aforementioned, how exactly do you go about preventing periodontal disease in your child? By instilling good oral hygiene early on so that they become hard and fast habits through the rest of their lives.
What that looks like is this: brushing their teeth after every meal and before bedtime, flossing at least once a day, and seeing your dentist or periodontist for regular exams twice a year.
As promised, it’s really that simple.
There are subtle nuances to brushing and flossing that a lot of us are prone to glossing over, largely because we were never properly taught ourselves at an early age, so check out our Oral Hygiene 101 page. There, you’ll find detailed guides, along with did-you-know-level insight, like tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below it, to ensure that you’re showing and telling your child everything they need to know while they’re still impressionable.
Parenting is a tough, unforgiving responsibility at times. There’s enough to worry about. Periodontal disease shouldn’t compound that burden. And as long as you take a few simple, intuitive measures early on, it won’t.