As babies, children, and adolescents grow up, they become susceptible to many oral health conditions and diseases. So, it is important to keep the young mouth healthy into adulthood by establishing oral care practices at home. Visiting the dentist for routine exams and teeth cleanings twice a year also ensures any abnormalities are caught and treated early.
Common oral conditions that affect developing children include, but are not limited to:
Gum diseases, such as mild gingivitis and periodontitis, commonly affect adults and seniors (65+). Although, both periodontitis and gingivitis can also occur in children, adolescents, and teens. The diseases begin with the accumulation of dental plaque, which is a complex community of bacteria that grows in a biofilm on teeth surfaces.
However, if dental plaque isn’t removed, it will turn into calculus (hardened plaque) that cannot be removed at home with a normal toothbrush. Over time, calculus buildup can cause inflammation, irritated gums, and ultimately gum disease. Two common types of gum disease that can affect children and adolescents include:
Gingivitis is a reversible, mild form of gum disease that causes gum inflammation without loss of bone. The disease affects children more commonly than periodontitis (PD) does. Gingivitis develops in response to bacteria that live in biofilms at the gingival margin and in the spaces between teeth and gum tissues (plaque and calculus). If gingivitis is left untreated, PD can form over time.
Common risk factors of gingivitis include tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, hormonal changes (puberty and menstruation), stress, and poor nutrition.
“During adolescence, there is an increase in the prevalence of gingivitis varying from 50 to 99 percent.”
Pediatric periodontal disease (PD) is an inflammatory disease that results in significant loss of periodontal attachment, which includes the gums, bones, and surrounding tissues. Periodontal disease, also called periodontitis, can begin in adolescence and signs of chronic periodontitis may not be noted until young adulthood. This is because the disease progresses very slowly in most people. For adults, aggressive periodontitis is a primary cause of tooth loss.
To prevent the risk of tooth loss from gum disease in adulthood, routine dental exams and teeth cleanings are necessary at least every 6 months to ensure plaque is removed from a child’s teeth. Common risk factors of periodontal disease include smoking, poor diets, genetics, some medications, bruxism, crooked teeth, dry mouth, and puberty.
Bruxism is the habit of grinding, clenching, and gnashing the teeth, typically during sleep. People who grind their teeth are referred to as “bruxers,” and most don’t realize they have the disorder. Children who develop minor bruxism usually outgrow it before pain and damage occur. For adults, the problem can be more severe and typically requires treatment. Common risk factors of bruxism include anxiety, stress, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, drugs, and genetics.
15 to 33 percent of children grind their teeth.”
Newly erupted primary teeth have thin enamel, making them more susceptible to demineralization (tooth decay). The leading cause of baby tooth decay is from excessive consumption of fruit juice or milk from a bottle for a long period of time.
It is crucial to take extra care of baby teeth during the infancy years to prevent decay and other oral health conditions later on. This is because if a baby tooth becomes infected, permanent teeth growing under the gums can inherit the disease. Learn more about baby bottle tooth decay.
Cleft lips and palates are splits in the oral cavity that develop on the upper lip, palate, or both. In short, they are birth defects that develop in the womb. The abnormality is linked to other medical and dental conditions, including hearing problems, speaking difficulties, cavities, and teeth misalignment. Learn more about cleft lips and palates.
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Al-Ghutaimel, Hayat, et al. “Common Periodontal Diseases of Children and Adolescents.” International Journal of Dentistry, vol. 2014, 2014, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1155/2014/850674.
“Bruxism (Teeth Grinding).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Aug. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356100
Casamassimo, Paul S., et al. Pediatric Dentistry - E-Book: Infancy through Adolescence. Saunders, 2013.
Judy, and Colleen Sexton. “Bruxism - Teeth Grinding Symptoms, Treatment & Causes.” American Sleep Association, https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-disorders/more-sleep-disorders/bruxism/.
Pari, Arul. “Gingival Diseases in Childhood – A Review.” Journal Of Clinical And Diagnostic Research, 2014, doi:10.7860/jcdr/2014/9004.4957.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. NIH Publication, 2013. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf
Nowak, Arthur J. Pediatric Dentistry: Infancy through Adolescence. Elsevier, 2019.