Gum Abscess in Children: What Parents Need to Know

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Imagine you're sharing a bowl of popcorn with your child on movie night. If a popcorn hull gets lodged between their tooth and gum tissue and it isn't removed, the gum could become infected and form an abscess.

An abscess is an area that develops pus that can form nearly anywhere in the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. It develops when a part of the body becomes infected and the person's immune system tries to fight the infection. A gum abscess in children can be a concerning situation for parents.

Gum Abscess Symptoms

When a child develops a gum abscess, they may experience pain in the affected part of the gum tissue due to the pressure of the trapped pus, explains the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS). This pain can extend to the ear, neck and jaw and may get worse when lying down.

The NHS reports that the abscess can cause redness or swelling in the face, and the gums may look shiny, swollen and red. Your child may complain of a bad taste in their mouth, or you may notice that their breath smells bad.

Treatments for Gum Abscesses

If you think your child has a gum abscess, take them to a dentist right away. A gum abscess doesn't go away on its own. If it is not treated, an abscess can damage the surrounding teeth and bones. The infection can even spread beyond the gums, which may lead to more serious problems.

The NHS explains that a gum abscess is treated by eliminating the cause of the infection and draining the buildup of pus. If an object is trapped between the teeth and gums, the dentist will carefully remove it. The pus can be drained through the gum pocket (the space between the teeth and gums) or through an incision in the gum tissue. Usually, this procedure is carried out under local anesthesia, which means that your child will be awake, but the affected areas of their mouth will be numb.

Your child will feel better once the abscess has been treated. They may be prescribed medications to help with any lingering pain, though the NHS does not recommend giving aspirin to children younger than 16. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if the infection is severe.

Preventing a Gum Abscess in Children

Regular brushing and flossing can help keep painful a gum abscess at bay. Like adults', children's teeth should be brushed twice a day (morning and night), starting as soon as their first tooth erupts. Parents should help children floss once a day when their tooth surfaces begin to touch each other.

While young children may be eager to clean their teeth independently, they may not be able to brush by themselves until they're 6 to 8 years old. If your child is old enough to start brushing alone, inspect their teeth afterward to make sure they're not missing any areas.

Regular visits to a dentist will also help keep your child's gums and teeth healthy. Your child can have their first dental visit when they get their first tooth. After that, kids should get dental checkups every six months.

A gum abscess can be painful for both children and adults. Fortunately, your family dentist can treat the problem and relieve your child's discomfort.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Tips for Good Oral Care During Childhood

  • Brushing and flossing
    Begin using toothpaste to brush your child's teeth when he (or she) is 2 years old. Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, rather than spitting it out. Introduce fluoride toothpaste when your child is old enough not to swallow it. As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. You can use regular floss or special plastic floss holders.

  • Dental visit
    New parents often ask, "When should my child first see a dentist?” Your child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday.

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