Gingivitis Associated with Puberty: What You Should Know

Gingivitis associated with puberty is a disorder that affects the gums of adolescents. Find out why it occurs and how it is treated.
Gingivitis Associated with Puberty: What You Should Know

Last update: 15 June, 2022

Inflammation and bleeding of the gums isn’t only a problem for adults, but can also affect children and adolescents. In this article, we’ll tell you about gingivitis associated with puberty.

The changes inherent to this stage favor the appearance of the problem: Lack of interest in dental hygiene, unhealthy eating, and new habits are some of the factors. In addition, hormonal changes do their part to promote gum inflammation.

Adults still play a key role in the oral health care of their teenagers. Therefore, finding a solution in time is fundamental to avoid more uncomfortable and serious complications. Keep reading and learn more.

Gingivitis associated with puberty

Gingivitis is an inflammatory process that affects the gums. In this condition, the gum tissue becomes enlarged, red, sore or painful, and bleeds at the slightest touch. It’s also commonly accompanied by bad breath and bacterial plaque and tartar deposits on the teeth.

If gingivitis isn’t treated in time, it can evolve into pyorrhea or periodontal disease. This isn’t very common in adolescents, but it is a possibility.

In this case, the inflammation is deeper and is accompanied by an infection that can seriously affect the supporting tissues of the teeth. The destruction of the bone and periodontium leads to tooth movement and even tooth loss.

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. The accumulation of bacterial plaque and the formation of tartar on the gums irritates them and triggers the inflammatory process as a defense strategy.

But in adolescents, there’s a new determining factor: The level of sexual hormones. In both males and females, the increase in hormone levels typical of puberty generates changes in the gums. In addition to the tendency to neglect dental hygiene, young people are more prone to develop gingival inflammation in response to even minimal contact with bacterial plaque.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology’s classification of periodontal diseases, gingivitis associated with puberty, or pubertal gingivitis, is included in the group of endocrine-associated plaque-induced gingivitis. For this reason, not only local factors, but also hormonal changes are considered when addressing this disease in adolescents.

A teen girl with gum pain.
Pain and bleeding from minor trauma, such as brushing, may suggest the presence of pubertal gingivitis.

Causes of gingivitis associated with puberty

We’ve already told you that the hormonal changes of puberty play a very important role, as well as new behaviors and attitudes related to the neglect of the mouth.

These are some of the factors that, combined, favor the appearance of gingivitis associated with puberty:

  • Heredity: Genetics may play a role. If parents suffer from this problem, their children may inherit the predisposition.
  • Hormonal changes: The radical increase in sex hormones triggers an exaggerated inflammatory response in the gums to local irritants. This occurs in both sexes, but in women, it may manifest itself in a cyclical manner associated with menstrual periods, especially during ovulation or due to the use of contraceptive pills.
  • Bacterial plaque and tartar: Inadequate oral hygiene allows the accumulation of bacteria and food debris that are deposited as a sticky film on the teeth and gums. If it’s not eliminated, it calcifies with the minerals in saliva and turns into tartar. Both elements irritate the gums.
  • Situations that retain plaque: Cavities, dental crowding, dental malpositions, and orthodontic appliances favor the permanence and accumulation of bacterial plaque in the mouth.
  • Oral breathing: Breathing through the mouth and the friction with the outside air cause dehydration and certain changes in the gums that lead to their inflammation.
  • Tooth eruption: The eruption of the last permanent teeth can lead to gingival inflammation.
  • Diet: When choosing what to eat, adolescents often tend to eat unhealthy diets. Ultra-processed foods, soft drinks, sweets, and candies favor the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Tobacco: Some adolescents may start smoking at this stage. This habit damages overall oral health and predisposes them to gingivitis.
  • Piercings: Placing jewelry in the mouth may be a choice of some young people, but it’s worth mentioning that such foreign objects in the oral mucosa favor gingival damage.

The treatment of gingivitis

The best way to address and treat gingivitis associated with puberty is to visit the dentist frequently. Sometimes the symptoms can be very subtle and only an experienced eye can detect the problem.

Clinical examination and X-rays help diagnose gum problems. But to reverse the situation, the young person’s commitment to adopting good oral hygiene habits is important.

Tooth brushing, flossing, and special mouthwashes are key to improving gingival health. In addition, the dentist can perform a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. This aids tissue healing.

In more severe cases where deeper areas are involved, scaling and root planing will be necessary. Even, the use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

Many times, when hormones are the main responsible for the problem, despite eliminating local factors, the situation doesn’t improve or reappears. And in general, after this stage of life, the inflammation decreases spontaneously (as long as the rest of the conditioning factors are under control).

How to avoid gingivitis associated with puberty

A preteen brushing her teeth while looking in the mirror.
Hygiene habits should not be left aside, since at this stage other predisposing factors for periodontal disease are added.

The hormonal changes typical of adolescence can’t be avoided and the appearance of gingivitis associated with puberty is always a possibility. However, you should know that if all other factors are controlled, your child’s oral health can improve.

Brushing teeth and using fluoride toothpaste and dental floss every day and properly are key to eliminating bacterial plaque. Young people should be aware of and responsible for the hygiene of their mouths. And parents play a fundamental role in motivating and insisting that they take care of their oral health.

Taking care of the diet and educating young people to choose healthy foods is also a strategy to maintain the health, not only of the mouth, but of the whole body. Being able to communicate and reflect on the risks of tobacco consumption and certain fashions such as piercings is also a great help.

Finally, regular visits to the dentist are essential to take care of the gums and the mouth in general. The professional is a great ally of prevention.

Therefore, gingivitis associated with puberty can be avoided with education and habits that promote health. A healthy lifestyle will help young people to enjoy their mouth without inconveniences.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Hennequin‐Hoenderdos, N. L., Slot, D. E., & Van der Weijden, G. A. (2016). The incidence of complications associated with lip and/or tongue piercings: a systematic review. International journal of dental hygiene14(1), 62-73.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.