This month we are taking the time to talk about the importance of teenagers maintaining good oral health habits. As they discover the limits of their independence, sometimes their good habits can fall to the side as being a teenager can be both awesome and challenging at the same time.
Dental decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in young people between the ages of 5-17, making it imperative that your teenager continues to follow good oral health habits during their teen years. Some dental concerns are somewhat unique to teenagers, and we want to highlight them and also include some tips on how your teenager can maintain excellent dental health.
Brushing and Flossing
As mentioned above, dental decay and gingivitis are common diseases that affect teenagers every year. It can be prevented with good oral hygiene habits such as daily brushing and flossing and attending routine dental examinations. Teenagers should brush with an age-appropriate toothbrush with soft to medium bristle strength, and ADA approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day for at least two minutes. Flossing between every tooth at least once a day can help to remove plaque buildup and food from between teeth and underneath the gum lines. Mouthwashes can also help to keep your teen’s mouth clean and fresh. Though at times, teenagers can be indifferent to certain things, be sure your teenager keeps up with their at-home care and comes in for routine cleanings and examinations so your dentist can catch any problems before they become worse
Crowded or crooked teeth can not only be an oral health problem but also affect your teen’s self-confidence. Your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist if he or she believes that orthodontic treatment, such as braces or a retainer, will help your teen.
Another everyday problem teenagers face is wisdom teeth! Though in a perfect world, wisdom teeth would grow in with plenty of room every time, it doesn’t always happen, and your teen’s wisdom teeth may need to be removed. Ask your dentist about how your teenager’s wisdom teeth are coming in and what he or she thinks the best option will be.
No matter what age, a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential not just for dental health but overall general health and wellbeing. We understand that sometimes snacks and quick meals can prove more tempting to teenagers. However, diets high in sugar and carbohydrates combined with the potential for poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of cavities and tooth decay in your teenager. Remind them of healthier options or have your teen keep a travel-sized dental kit or on-the-go toothbrush in their locker or bag to brush between meals or snacks.
Unfortunately, eating disorders are common in teenagers, and though a parent may be unaware, a trained dental professional will be able to notice the signs during a routine exam. Eating disorders can damage teeth and the soft tissue of the mouth. Your dentist can provide referrals for teenagers who may need help beginning the process of recovery from eating disorders.
Injuries from sports or extracurricular activities can put your teenager at risk for dental injuries. A bad fall off a skateboard or a wayward ball to the face can break teeth, bones, and even your teen’s jaw. Be sure they have adequate protection such as mouthguards and safety gear like a helmet to reduce the risk of injury. Remind your teen to keep their mouthguard clean and stored in a ventilated container when not in use.
Smoking, Alcohol, and Substances
Discouraging smoking and the use of tobacco or illegal substances is vital in protecting your teenager’s health and teeth. Dental effects of tobacco include stained teeth, bad breath, canker sores, loss of taste, bone/tooth loss, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.
In terms of oral health, alcohol can also increase the risk of tooth decay and dental erosion if the alcohol contains large amounts of sugar or acid. Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel due to sugar and acid attacks from sweet treats and drinks. Once worn away, the underlayer of the tooth is exposed and can cause discoloration and sensitivity.
Illegal drugs can lead to a range of health problems. Any smokable drug has the same effects on oral health as smoking tobacco does. Most drugs can also lead to conditions such as dry mouth, dental erosion, tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.
Oral piercings can affect the tongue, lips, cheek, and other soft tissues within the mouth. Oral health problems associated with oral jewelry include swallowed jewelry, fractured/chipped teeth, infection, inflammation, and difficulty swallowing or eating. Be sure your teenager follows proper hygiene instructions regarding the care of their piercing to avoid infections. Dental professionals can also offer guidance on how to maintain good oral health and avoid common problems associated with piercings.
Some dental concerns may not be as apparent to teenagers or parents, making it all the more critical that teenagers come in for routine dental cleanings and exams. For more information on teenagers and dental health, contact Children’s Dentistry of San Diego today.