Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Shabnam Sengupta
During the whirlwind of the teenage years where schoolwork, social activities and self-discovery take centre stage, it’s important not to overlook crucial aspects of gum care. It is a pivotal time for personal development and while teenagers often focus on perfecting their smiles, they may not fully grasp the importance of maintaining healthy gums. In this discussion, we will explore the significance of gum care for teenagers, including why it matters, the challenges they may face and practical steps they can take to ensure their gums stay healthy while navigating the exciting journey of adolescence.
Dr Ketan Rajput is a dental professional with a specialization in periodontology and implantology. Having graduated from the well-regarded Nair Hospital Dental College in Mumbai. He has made significant contributions to academia and is recognized for his expertise in laser dentistry. Dr Rajput offers workshops on laser dentistry across the country through Laserpedia and has published both nationally and internationally.
How do teenage years impact gum health, and how is it distinctive from that of children and adults?
Dr Ketan Rajput: To address this question, let me tell you teenage is a very crucial period. This is the age group from around, 12 to 18 years of age. This is the most complex period of our lives. Most of the body changes start from this age. You have hormonal imbalances taking place in your body, especially in females. Most of the habits which people encounter in their lifetime are during this age group.
Apart from hormonal changes and habits, many lifestyle changes happen during this time. They tend to develop more of a fast lifestyle. Binge eating, fast food consumption, etc., start happening at this stage mostly. They are less inclined towards green vegetables and healthy food and lifestyle.
In the case of children, I feel parents are more involved with them as the children are completely dependent on them even for the basic day-to-day activities. Whereas adults have a hormonal balance or their hormonal levels are at a more stable level. Also, by the time, an individual becomes an adult, they develop an understanding of what is good and bad for them. However, it is not the same with teenagers.
Are there gender-specific differences in gum health among teenagers? And if so, what factors contribute to these disparities?
Dr Ketan Rajput: Yes, there are gender-specific changes. Young girls are more prone to developing gum issues or oral health-related issues. This is mostly because of hormonal imbalances, especially the progesterone and oestrogen.
You’ll find a lot of imbalance of these two hormones in teenage girls. As a result, the blood supply is altered in the oral cavity or towards the gum. The gums are more sensitive towards any minor changes that happen, maybe plaque, bacteria or even a minor toothbrush injury. So, if a teenage girl has even a minor toothbrush injury, she’ll be more sensitive towards that as compared to an adult.
Are there any other key factors which are associated with gum disease in this particular age group?
Dr Ketan Rajput: Yes. Habits like tobacco in any form, chewing or smoking, or alcohol can affect the gums. These are the factors which probably have the main impact apart from hormonal imbalances and genetics. Apart from that, lifestyle is a huge factor. Young teenagers, as I already said, tend to prefer fast food and binge eating and neglect healthy foods like green leafy vegetables, fruits, milk and dairy products. These things can also have a serious impact on oral health.
What are the key indicators of affected gum health in teenagers? And when should they visit a dentist?
Dr Ketan Rajput: The key indicators are not only for teenagers. It is almost the same for everyone. For teenagers, if you have red, swollen gums or you have moving teeth, then there will be pain or tenderness. As a result, you may experience bleeding while brushing your teeth or having food, or you can have tenderness in your gums. Frequent oral ulcers in the oral cavity beneath your tongue or the cheeks as a result of cheek biting due to stress are also indicators.
As far as visiting a dentist is concerned, I would say it is never too early to go to a dentist. However, every four to six months you should visit a dentist. Regular checkups will enable your dentist to determine any problem with your oral cavity and treat it timely.
Are there any recommendations for certain oral hygiene practices that teenagers should carry out to maintain their healthy gums?
Dr Ketan Rajput: Teenagers should practice gum care measures, that is, brushing twice daily, then having mouth rinsing, flossing, then having medicated toothpaste and everything. So, if you’re having good oral hygiene during this period, ultimately your oral cavity is going to be going to stay healthy. And as you know, the oral cavity is the entry point for your entire body. So, if your oral cavity is healthy, you are going to stay healthy. But if your oral cavity is not healthy for an extended period, you are going to fall sick.
You have to keep your oral cavity healthy. And for this, the dentist plays a major role. As I said, every six months they should visit the dentist. Regular checkups or teeth cleaning every six months will ensure that whatever small amount of bacteria is present in your oral cavity is washed out.
What role do diet and nutrition play? Are there any specific foods that can either promote or hinder gum health?
Dr Ketan Rajput: As I already said, teenagers need to consume raw leafy vegetables for proper gum care. You should also consume fibre-rich fruits, milk and dairy products. Fruits rich in Vitamin C like lemons and oranges are very important. One should avoid consuming sticky foods or candies, fast foods and everything. These damage your teeth and gums and adversely impact your overall health. So that should be avoided.
What are the long-term consequences of tobacco use and vaping on oral health?
Dr Ketan Rajput: Tobacco in any form is injurious to your health. It is going to harm your oral health and ultimately your body. Tobacco can cause receding gums. It will also alter the blood supply to the oral cavity.
In the long run, tobacco will result in mobile teeth, tenderness or pain associated with your teeth. It also increases the risk of oral cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to educate them about tobacco and other related products. A huge number of teenagers consume tobacco products, and it should be controlled.
What proactive preventive measures would you recommend for teenagers to maintain their gums?
Dr Ketan Rajput: I would say that this period is very crucial. Teenagers just start understanding what is good or what is bad for them. So first, the parents need to be educated about this and the parents need to educate their children about this. And ultimately, if children practise good oral hygiene, they will have good oral health. Also, regular dental checkups are a must.
Please suggest some effective preventive measures that can be implemented, let’s say, in schools or communities, to improve gum care for teenagers.
Dr Ketan Rajput: I feel schools or colleges are the gateway to knowledge. So, if schools and colleges take these initiatives, and collaborate with dentists, like inviting them for small lectures or camps, it can help the students. Through these lectures and camps, the students will have a larger space to gather understanding and knowledge about their health directly from medical experts. This age group can grasp information very quickly. Therefore, if they get the knowledge on time, it will help them have a healthy life in the future.
What role does oral health literacy have in promoting better gum care in teenagers?
Dr Ketan Rajput: Oral health literacy, as I addressed previously, is important. If schools and colleges provide it timely, it will help teenagers in the long run. Understanding the adverse impact of tobacco and a bad lifestyle will make them understand the importance of developing healthy habits. This way, they will know the importance of regular checkups and maintaining proper oral health.
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