If you think gum disease is something for “boomers” — think again. Gum disease can happen to anyone, especially if you have poor oral hygiene habits. Here we look at teens and gum disease, how they are affected by it, the symptoms to watch for, and how to prevent it.
How Does Gum Disease Affect Teens?
When you don’t keep up with your daily brushing and flossing you allow plaque to build up on your teeth and along the gum line. When this happens bacteria is rampant and produces toxins that harm your teeth and irritate your gums. This leads to the early stages of gum disease, called gingivitis.
As a result, you experience puffy, red gums and bleeding when you brush and floss. The good news is, you can reduce the risk for gingivitis by simply brushing and flossing twice a day. However, when you don’t stick to this simple routine, you can experience red, swollen gums and bad breath, and your gums can actually become loose around your teeth.
What Is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum or “periodontal” disease. Basically, it is the inflammation of the gums. It can be painful and cause social issues since it often leads to bad breath. You can avoid gum disease by sticking to your oral hygiene regime. This can be hard when you are falling into bed late every night. It’s important to remember that without healthy gums, your teeth are at risk.
The last thing you want is an unsightly smile and the possibility of losing teeth. This is a very real risk because inflamed gums cause the teeth to become loose as the gums recede. This also can cause a yellowing at the bottom of your teeth where the sensitive area is exposed below the gum line. Your teeth become more vulnerable as plaque hardens and turns to tartar. This destructive buildup destroys your gum tissue, increasing the risk for lost teeth.
5 Steps To Prevent Gum Disease In Teens
Here are five steps to help prevent gum disease:
- Brushing and Flossing: Do this twice a day to keep plaque to a minimum.
- Regular Dental Checkups: See your dentist twice a year for your professional dental cleanings and a checkup to make sure there are no signs of gingivitis. They can recommend ways to improve oral hygiene if they spot gum issues.
- Enjoy a Healthier Diet: The foods you probably love are also foods that produce harmful acids that contribute to gum disease. This includes sweet and starchy foods. Try fresh fruits and vegetables, or dairy instead.
- No Smoking or Vaping: Even if you consider yourself a “Social” smoker, smoking is bad for your health, including your teeth and gums — period. Avoid this addictive, life-threatening habit at all costs to reduce the risk for oral cancer and gum disease, as just a few of the possible consequences of smoking.
- Get More Sleep: If you tend to be a night owl, you might not be getting enough sleep. When you aren’t well-rested you can become stressed which can also increase the risk for gingivitis.
While some of these steps will be harder to follow than others, the better you become at adopting them, the less chance there is of developing gum disease and bad breath.
Common Risk Factors For Teens And Gum Disease
Using the five steps above definitely reduces your risk for gum disease. However, those steps become even more important if you have any of the following additional risk factors:
- Braces: If you wear braces, it becomes more difficult to brush and floss, which increases the risk for gum disease. Your dentist can recommend tools and techniques to get in between your teeth despite having wire braces.
- Hormones: Unfortunately not much can be done about hormones, so your oral health care regime is very important during your teens.
- PMS: For some girls, PMS can cause bleeding gums.
- Genetics: Here’s another thing you can blame on your parents, as in some cases genetics increase the odds of getting gum disease.
- Medications: You might be taking medications that increase the risk of gingivitis.
These are all factors your dentist considers at your checkups.
Two Stages/Types Of Gum Disease
Gum disease has two stages:
- Gingivitis: This is the early stage of gum disease. At this stage, you can actually reverse your gum disease symptoms by tweaking your oral health regime. If you notice your gums are puffy, red, and tender, or you have bleeding when you brush or floss, have your parents set up a dental appointment for you. Your dentist will check your gums and recommend the right tools and techniques to stop the progress. By sticking to their advice you will not only reverse its progress but get rid of it permanently in most cases.
- Periodontitis: If you don’t see your dentist when you suspect you have gingivitis, your gum disease progresses to the serious stage called periodontitis. Serious gum disease weakens your gums, forming deep pockets that loosen your teeth and expose the sensitive area below the gum line. Deep tissue damage can lead to infections, tooth loss and bone loss.
As you can see, you want to avoid gum disease at all costs and address signs of gum disease as soon as possible.
Treatments For Teens With Gum Disease
The following treatments are required if you have gum disease:
As we’ve already explained, during the early stages of gum disease, improving your brushing and flossing technique is often enough to completely reverse its progress. Following your dentist’s instructions will ensure your gingivitis also doesn’t come back. If it is more advanced, but still not quite at the periodontitis stage, your dentist might also prescribe antibiotics or antibacterial mouthwash if you have a mild infection.
Because this is a far more serious form of gum disease, it will require a more aggressive gum disease treatment plan, which could include a combination of the following:
- Scaling or root planing: This is an advanced cleaning procedure to remove tartar below the gum line
- Antibiotics: If there is an infection, antibiotics kill bacteria in deep pockets.
- Surgery: If the underlying gum tissue is diseased it has to be exposed and removed. Often the gums need to be stitched to reduce tooth loosening.
- Gingival grafting: This is for extreme cases where the tissue can’t be saved. The damaged tissue has to be removed and replaced with healthy tissue often removed from the roof of your mouth.
Chances are if your gum disease requires these extreme measures, you’ll take steps to ensure your gum disease never returns.