Braces can give your teen a beautiful, straight smile for life, but getting there can sometimes come with challenges. Brushing and flossing with braces can be more challenging to clean the teeth thoroughly. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it can build up into an invisible film. This sticky layer produces bacteria that can lead to minor gum disease known as gingivitis. While anyone can develop gingivitis, teens going through orthodontic treatment are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Young children who still have their primary (baby) teeth acquire less plaque buildup than older children with permanent teeth. As a result, young children are less likely to develop gingivitis. Once an adolescent hits puberty, between the ages of 10 and 16, the potential of developing gingivitis is at an all-time high. The chances of an adolescent developing puberty-associated gingivitis increase so significantly because of the changes in hormones. Female teens have the highest risk of developing gingivitis around the age of 10, where males are more likely to develop gingivitis around 13.
Gingivitis Causes and Risk Factors With Braces
During the early years of puberty, young teens should pay extra close attention to their oral hygiene to prevent gingivitis. Many of the risk factors associated with gingivitis are preventable, and changing certain lifestyle habits can significantly decrease a child’s risk.
Certain things can make a person more likely to develop gum disease. Some are inherited, while others, like sugary snacks, put a child more at risk of developing gum disease. For a child with braces, fending off plaque can be more difficult. Additionally, flossing is more of a challenge, and many kids with braces avoid the task because of the additional time it takes to perform.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Neglecting brushing and flossing can quickly lead to gingivitis. Dentists and orthodontists recommend brushing twice a day and flossing once a day to help prevent gum disease from forming. Tooth decay and other oral diseases can also quickly develop when oral hygiene is lacking.
Puberty and menstruation can cause gum inflammation and gum sensitivity. Increases in female sex hormones during puberty can make girls’ gums more sensitive to irritation. Some girls may notice that their gums bleed a bit in the days before their period.
If plaque from teeth and gums isn’t removed by excellent dental care, it will harden into tartar over time. Once tartar forms, it begins to destroy gum tissue, causing the gums to bleed and pull away from the teeth.
Tobacco use is one of the primary causes of gum disease. Teens who smoke, vape, or chew tobacco are seven times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smoking classmates. Those who have never smoked tobacco are at a substantially lower risk of developing gum disease than those who have.
Being under constant stress weakens the immune system and increases inflammation. High-stress levels in combination with poor oral health and hygiene can cause gum disease to develop over time.
Poor nutrition can make it difficult for the body to fight off infections, which puts children at a higher risk of developing gum disease. The buildup of dental plaque is more likely if a child frequently consumes sugary foods, soft drinks, and foods high in carbohydrates and saturated fats.
When To Seek Professional Help
If your child has already developed gingivitis, it’s best to begin treatments as soon as possible through periodontal therapy, scaling, and root planing. Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine can also be used to help control the infection, and these can be especially helpful in teens with braces.
At Thomas Orthodontics, we care about your family and their overall health during orthodontic treatment. If you notice any gingivitis symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact our office for help.