Many children today will enter their teenage years with no tooth decay or fillings, due to water fluoridation, fluoride toothpastes and a better awareness of dental health. This can produce a false sense of security and a feeling of invincibleness for many teenagers, who will believe that their perfect dental health record will continue without any special effort.
However, dental problems can occur in our teenage years and because teenagers now have all their permanent adult teeth, the very teeth that they must maintain for the rest of their life, the importance of looking after their teeth at this stage cannot be underestimated.
The teenage years are the best time to lay the foundations of excellent oral hygiene and dental care. Obviously, brushing and flossing are the most important parts to this routine. There are, however, several areas of particular concern to teenagers that need to be highlighted:
With the full eruption of all the permanent teeth, you will now know whether orthodontic treatment will be necessary or not. Having straight teeth should not be thought of as a purely aesthetic or cosmetic concern, but also as a functional concern. Incorrectly placed teeth or jaws can cause many problems. The primary problem is that crooked teeth are much harder to keep clean and therefore are at an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Jaw problems can cause headaches and pain jaw muscles. Most teenagers will have had an orthodontic evaluation by now, but if they haven’t, now is the time to seek advice.
A healthy diet is fundamental not only to your general health, but also your dental health. A well balanced diet is important, and particularly the avoidance of sugary or starchy foods in between meals. Also today, sports drinks are becoming particularly popular but their use needs to be controlled because they are very acidic and can cause an increase in tooth decay and sensitivity. It is better to drink it quickly rather than sipping them over a long period of time.
Many teenagers are playing sport and the use of a mouth guard to protect not only their teeth but lips as well is vitally important. Any sport where there is a risk of contact to the mouth, be it by a ball or contact with another person, requires the use of a mouth guard. Only a mouth guard that has been professionally made to fit your mouth will provide the maximum protection available. A mouth guard will also lessen the risk of concussion should you receive a heavy knock to the head.
Unfortunately, it is during the teenage years that many adolescents will begin to smoke. The best advice is not to start in the first place. Initially smoking will lead to stained and yellow teeth and cause bad breath. Long-term use has been shown to increase the effect of gum disease and also lead to an increased risk of not only lung cancer but also oral cancers.
Teenagers are at an increased risk of developing eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia. The reason teeth are at risk is due to vomiting. When a person vomits they bring up stomach acids, which can severely damage the teeth by eroding away the tooth enamel. A visit to the dentist is important to help minimize the effect of the stomach acids on teeth. A dentist can’t treat the actual disorder, but may recommend the use of fluoride rinses and special toothpastes to help lessen the damage to the teeth.