Most teens lead very busy and active lives. Their hectic schedules and increasing independence can translate into less time and effort being spent taking care of their teeth.
Creating a Dental Care Routine
Making and maintaining a dental care routine is an essential part of safeguarding oral health. Your teen should be brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease caused by dental plaque build-up.
Regular dental visits are also an indispensible part of maintaining dental health that is often overlooked during the teen years. It is important for your teen find the time to work regular dental visits and dental cleanings into their schedule to ensure that any problems are caught early on and to promote good oral health.
If your teen participates in sports, it is very important that they protect their smile while on the field or court. Wearing a mouthguard is the best way to avoid chipped teeth or lost teeth or cut lips.
If your teen wears dental braces, it is especially important for them to wear a mouthguard or night guard because dental braces can cut and tear the soft tissues of the mouth. And of course, a knocked-out tooth is the ultimate undoing of any orthodontic treatment.
Diet and Nutrition
Many teens thrive on a diet of sugar- and carbohydrate-rich foods. While their overall health may not suffer, their teeth probably will. Sugars and carbohydrates create an ideal environment for dental plaque to thrive.
Teens are drinking more soft drinks than ever, both in school and at home. Soda consumption among this age group has steadily increased in recent years. Sugar in sweetened sodas can cause cavities, and acidic flavor additives (found in both unsweetened and sweetened sodas) can also erode and damage tooth enamel.
Besides decreasing soda consumption, teens can limit the harmful effects of soda in two simple ways: sipping soda through a straw cuts down on the contact the beverage has with teeth, and rinsing the mouth with water after drinking soda can reduce the risk of cavities.
Limiting "junk food" consumption and replacing it with healthy snacks, such as crunchy fruits and vegetables, is the best way to promote good oral health. If your teen has trouble kicking their junk food habit, they can increase the frequency of their brushing and chew sugar-free gum to promote saliva flow.
The teenage years are also when people are most at-risk for developing eating disorders. In addition to the many negative health effects of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa, they also have disastrous effects on dental health. It is important for you to encourage your teen to eat a balanced and nutrient-rich diet to benefit their long-term overall health and oral health.
Tongue piercing remains a trend despite the dangers to oral health. People with tongue piercings chip their teeth on the jewelry while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing. The fracture can be confined to tooth enamel and require a filling, or it may go deeper, which can lead to a root canal or tooth extraction.
Infections are also common with oral piercings. The tongue can swell after being punctured, and in some cases can become infected and swell to such a degree that it interferes with breathing. Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as blood-borne hepatitis.
Studies have demonstrated that the majority of long-term tobacco users begin using tobacco products during their teen years. It is important that you remind your teen about the negative health effects of smoking and tobacco use. Most health problems associated with tobacco use, such as tooth and gum staining, dental tartar build-up and bad breath, may not be noticeable until years after use starts. This means that addiction will probably make the habit harder to break by the time they notice its effect.
If you or your teens have any questions or concerns regarding their dental health, your dentist is your best resource. Speak with your dentist about what your teen can do to keep their teeth healthy and sparkling for years to come.