Study: Rare gum disease prevalent in Black children

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By Ruthie Hawkins, blackdoctor.org

A study from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine highlights a rare gum disease targeting African-American children. If you have young children, you already know a bit about “the struggle” when it comes to judging just how much dental care kids need.

  • When should I schedule my child’s first trip to the dentist?
  • Should my 3-year-old be flossing?
  • How do I know if my child needs braces?
  • How do I get my child to engage – not dread – brushing their teeth daily?

These are all questions that plague us as our mini me’s approach toddlerhood. Now, oral biologist Daniel H. Fine and his team at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine have added another item to our check list – getting to know a disease called “localized aggressive periodontitis.”

According to the 2015 study, Fine tracked more than 2,500 Newark children since 2007 to chart the progression of the rare form of gum disease that afflicts 2 percent of African-American adolescents ages 11 to 17.

While 2 percent may not strike a chord, the sickness, “which has a genetic basis,” has a high rate of currency in Black children (a community often with limited access to dental care), only attacking “central incisors and molars.” As a result, tooth disfiguring, loss, and difficulty eating may occur.

“This is a health disparity issue that has an impact on members of the African-American community that can ill afford to lose teeth and suffer the consequences from either a psychological or sociological vantage point,’’ says Fine, reports Rutgers.

According to Fine, 70,000 children in this country are affected by the disease. Meanwhile, the associate dean for research in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences adds that the study highlights the biological basis for other forms of periodontitis — a serious gum infection that damages gums and destroys the jawbone — which affects nearly half of Americans over age 30.

In advanced stages — the condition — most common among those living below the poverty level (a whopping 65 percent) — is a risk factor for heart and lung diseases, reports the Mayo Clinic.

“If we focus on these children, it gives us an opportunity to dissect the factors that lead to bone loss and help save their teeth,’’ Fine added.

Although much is still unclear about localized aggressive periodontitis, you can help protect your child’s teeth by helping them learn proper tooth and gum health. Do this by using creative ways to engage children in brushing like:

  • Let your child use a fun and colorful toothbrush to start.
  • Allow your child to brush your teeth. Have fun with that, then allow them to brush their own teeth.
  • Try a fun and rewarding oral hygiene chart.
  • Most of all, don’t forget to praise, praise, praise your kids for their epic brushing skills!

For more information on localized aggressive periodontitis, click here.

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