Everyone wants a beautiful smile. Bad breath, stained teeth, decaying teeth, gum disease, tooth loss and dental erosion are not welcome during the teen years (or at any age!).
However, when the teen years arrive, and schedules become filled and there is no time to spare, dental health and oral care can fall by the wayside. Lax dental care combined with hormonal changes that occur during puberty could be detrimental to dental and oral health. The results will affect their smile, levels of confidence and their happiness.
Here are 10 things that parents and teens should know about teen dental care:
- Basic oral and dental care habits should continue – Just as with younger kids, how teens take care of their dental and oral health can have long term implications for their future. Despite the busy schedules and other distractions, dental professionals recommend brushing teeth at least twice a day and flossing. For a brighter healthier smile, you can brush after every meal.
- Diet and nutrition – Teen diets should include nutrients to build up growing permanent teeth. At the same time, keeping away from food habits, such as constantly snacking on sweet or starchy foods or sipping sodas, can lead to dental cavities and gum problems. International Dental Health Foundation recommends sticking to three or four meals a day and skipping snacks.
- Hormonal changes during puberty increase risk of periodontal disease - According to the American Academy of Periodontology, sex hormones such as progesterone and possibly estrogen during puberty cause increased blood circulation to the gums. A resulting increase in gum sensitivity may lead to a greater than normal reaction food particles and plaque. Irritated gums become swollen, feel tender and turn red. Good news is that this tendency lessens as teens progress through puberty.
- Smoking – Besides being bad for general health, smoking causes tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss and mouth cancer. It is also a key contributor to bad breath. If smoking is combined with drinking, it can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer.
- Drinking – Just as in adults, teens who abuse alcohol face a higher risk of damaging their teeth and gums as well as general oral health. Alcohol consumption increases the chances of severe gum disease or periodontitis.
- Illegal drugs - Illegal drugs can cause many health problems. Smoking cannabis has the same effects as smoking tobacco. Other drugs may cause a dry mouth and increase the risk of dental erosion, tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. Drugs can also lead to teeth grinding, resulting in headaches, facial and jaw pain and other problems.
- Using mouth protectors during sports and activities – The highest number of dental injuries occur in the thirteen to seventeen year age group while engaging in sports. Baseball and basketball top the list of sports causing dental injuries. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of dental injuries in older adolescents and adults may be caused while engaging in sports. Wearing mouth guards during sports and other physical activities can help avoid tooth damage, tooth loss and nerve damage to a tooth. They also help minimize injuries to the lips, tongue, and soft tissues of the mouth. Face cages protect the face against trauma during activities such as boxing, sparring, martial arts and outdoor sports.
- Braces and other dental appliances - Braces are worn to straighten or move teeth to improve appearance. Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite can be corrected with braces which also help improve the long-term health of teeth, gums and jaw joints by spreading the biting pressure.There are different types of braces. Your dentist or orthodontist can help you choose what is best for you. Depending on how severe the problem is, you may need to wear braces for a few months; or upto two and a half years. Most people’s problems can be corrected between one to two years.
- Visits to the dentist – Parents should promote dental health among teens by scheduling regular dental visits for checkups, periodontal evaluations and cleanings.
- Cosmetic dentistry, appearance and personal image – Teenage is a special time. Personal image and opinions of others matter more during teen years than during any other time. Various procedures and solutions are available for teens who wish to improve their appearance and personal image; and they don’t necessarily involve surgery or costly procedures.