While most teens care about the appearance of their teeth, many do not know a lot about the steps they should be taking to maintain good oral health.
But there are a number of teen-specific dental concerns that you and your teen should be aware of.
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.
If your teen wears dental braces or other devices made by an orthodontist, it may be necessary for them to use special flosses to clean around wires and brackets and to brush their teeth after every meal to prevent dental plaque and debris from clinging to teeth. It is a good idea for teens to carry a small toothbrush and floss with them or keep these items in their lockers.
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.
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.
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.