Preventing and Treating Gingivitis (Gum Disease) in Children

Do your child’s teeth bleed during brushing or flossing? Are the gums swollen, tender, or painful to the touch? Your child may have gingivitis  (often called gum disease.) It is the first stage of periodontal disease and, unfortunately, it is common in children.

Preventive dental care is our specialty here at Dr Sara Babich’s NYC Pediatric Dentistry. Gingivitis is easily prevented and can be treated with a regular routine of brushing, flossing and professional dental care.

Healthy gums are usually pink in color and do not bleed during tooth brushing or flossing. Gums that bleed for more than a week often indicate gum disease that needs to be treated by a pediatric dentist.

Left untreated, gingivitis can cause serious issues for young dental patients. It can eventually advance to more serious forms of periodontal disease, bone loss and even tooth loss.

Symptoms of gingivitis

  • Red, puffy gums.

  • Bleeding gums, especially when you brush or floss.

  • Gum soreness that won’t go away.

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages.

  • Bad breath that won’t go away. Plaque contains millions of bacteria that produce foul-smelling waste products.

  • Inflamed gum tissue may form small gaps or pockets between the teeth and gums.


Gum disease can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. Gum inflammation happens when a naturally-occurring sticky film called plaque forms along the gum line.

Plaque contains bacteria and produces toxins that irritate the gums. If plaque is not removed regularly with proper brushing and flossing, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar. Tartar irritates and inflames the gums. Inflammation can gradually separate the gums from the teeth — forming little spaces that are referred to as “periodontal pockets.”

Older children and young adults may be more susceptible to gingivitis and orthodontic appliances make proper oral hygiene challenging.

Other causes of gingivitis in children include:

  • A vitamin C deficiency or a diet lacking essential nutrients

  • Teeth grinding

  • Medical conditions including diabetes and systemic or autoimmune diseases

  • Hormonal changes

  • Certain medications

  • Mouth breathing, which may lead to severe drying of the gums and teeth in the front of the mouth


If gingivitis proceeds unchecked, the pockets open up between the gums and the teeth, ex- posing the roots of the teeth. The teeth can gradually become loose and fall out or need to be removed. Persistent bad breath is an indicator of periodontitis. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to serious health problems later in life.



Regular oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, is the best defense against gingivitis.  As with most ailments, periodontal disease is best dealt with in its early stages making early diagnosis vital for successful treatment.

Taking your child to the pediatric dentist can play a big role in preventing gingivitis. At these visits, the dentist can educate you and your child about proper brushing techniques, flossing, and other preventative techniques.

  • Parents should brush infants’ teeth. You can start cleaning your baby’s teeth by wiping with a soft cloth or brushing with a small soft toothbrush and water.

  • Children need an adult to help them with teeth brushing until about age six.

  • Use toothbrushes with soft bristles. Replace toothbrushes every three months.

  • Some studies showed powered/electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes.

  • Toothpaste containing fluoride is effective in preventing gingivitis.

  • Make sure your child is brushing twice daily for two minutes at a time and flossing once per day.

  • Brushing teeth after sugary or starchy snacks is also strongly recommended.

  • Mouthwashes with antimicrobial agents, such as hydrogen peroxide, triclosan and chlorhexidine digluconate are also effective therapies against gingivitis.

  • Mouthwashes with essential oils - such as methyl salicylate, eucalyptol, menthol, and thymol - are approved by the American Dental Association to reduce plaque and inflammation.

  • Rinsing with warm salt water may alleviate gum swelling.

  • A healthy diet leads to healthy teeth.

Treatment of pediatric gingivitis

  • Professional dental cleaning Gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. Professional dental cleanings are required for removal of tartar, by scaling and root planing.

    During a professional cleaning in our Upper East Side Children’s Dental office, we will remove all plaque and tartar from your child’s teeth. We’ll show you and your child how to remove plaque successfully and to clean the teeth effectively.

  • Scaling and root planing. For more advanced cases of childhood gingivitis, scaling is needed to remove tartar and bacteria from tooth surfaces and beneath the gum line.  

    Root planing is a more aggressive procedure that involves instrumentation, a laser, or an ultrasonic device. These procedures remove the bacteria that is causing inflammation and smoothes root surfaces.

Schedule a checkup

Luckily, pediatric dentist Dr. Sara Babich can treat and reverse the effects of gingivitis if it is detected early. Call for an appointment at our Upper East Side of Manhattan pediatric dentistry office today.