If you’ve got a teenager, you know just how tough it can be to get your message heard. After all, when you’re a teenager it’s easy to believe that you’re immune to life’s dangers — including health problems such as gum disease. But as a parent, you probably know that the opposite is true: According to TeenHealth.com approximately 60 percent of 15-year-old teenagers have gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.
Fortunately, gingivitis is preventable, and you can play a major role in preventing your teenager from developing gum disease and other oral health conditions. But don’t panic if your prevention efforts fail! Early gum disease can still be turned around if you seek gum disease treatment early on.
Back to Basics
Your teenager may not think it’s “cool” to brush and floss or limit their consumption of sugar-laden foods and drinks. Even so, it’s important for parents to emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene and healthy eating habits.
The most obvious way to reinforce good oral hygiene is to remind your teenager to brush and floss every night. But it’s also a good to idea to make sure that there are plenty of spare toothbrushes on hand so that your teen never has to use an old one (which would decrease the effectiveness of brushing). Be sure to stock your bathroom with plenty of extra floss and toothpaste, too.
Regular dental visits also play an integral part in your teenager’s oral health, so always project a positive attitude about visiting the dentist — chances are your teen will follow suit. And never use a dental visit as a form of punishment for your teenager who has bad oral habits. Instead, create a sense of optimism about dental visits by saying things like “Your mouth is going to feel great after a visit with Dr. Jones!”
What your teenager eats and drinks on a regular basis also has a direct impact on the health of their teeth and gums. Flavored waters, energy drinks and sports drinks are popular among teens, but studies have found that the high-sugar content and acidity found in these drinks are linked to cavities and tooth erosion.
So while it may not be easy to wean your teen from soda and other flavored drinks, the health of their teeth and bodies make it worth trying. You can encourage healthy eating habits by stocking your refrigerator with vegetables, fruit and plain drinking water instead of cookies, ice cream and soda. Some studies even show that drinking milk may also be helpful in preventing periodontal disease.
Another good way to help promote good oral health is to get your teenager to focus on something that’s already important to them: their image. Let your teenager know that numerous studies have shown that a healthy, beautiful smile attracts the opposite sex and leaves a good impression on others — that’s sure to hit home! Pointing out the beautiful smiles of celebrities that your teenager admires can also be a useful tool.
Teenage Girls at Risk
It’s well known that hormonal changes related to puberty can affect your teenager’s mood, but they can also increase your teenage daughter’s risk of developing gum disease.
Studies have shown that a spike in progesterone and estrogen levels causes an increase in blood circulation to the gums of female teenagers. As a result, your daughter’s gums may become especially sensitive and tender during puberty. Food particles, dental plaque and dental tartar can also make her gums more vulnerable to irritation, so it’s especially important for teenage girls to follow a good at-home oral hygiene regimen.
Remember, professional dental cleanings are essential for removing dental plaque and dental tartar on a regular basis. A regular dental visit is the ideal time to get your dentist’s expert advice on your teenager’s gums, so be sure to ask questions! Your dentist may also recommend periodontal dental treatment for your teenager to help prevent damage to the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth.