10 Tips for Healthy Teen Teeth

10 Tips for Healthy Teen Teeth

teen braces smileMaintaining healthy teeth and gums is key for overall health at any age, and the teenage years are no exception. During the teen years, socializing, fitting-in and looking good are important for building self-esteem. Maintaining a healthy and pleasing smile without damaged or missing teeth is part of the equation. In addition to brushing, flossing, maintaining a healthy diet and visiting your dentist on a regular basis, there are several other dental considerations during the teen years to help ensure a healthy and attractive smile for years to come.

Sealants Dental sealants are bonded to teeth with deep pits and grooves to help prevent decay.  They act as a barrier, protecting cavity-prone areas during a high caries risk period of a teenagers life.  Remember: Just because you have sealants doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush and floss every day. Sealants are added protection against decay!

Braces If your teeth are crooked or out of alignment, you may benefit from braces. Fortunately, today’s braces are more comfortable, available in various colors, and give you more treatment options. In certain cases, invisible and removable clear plastic aligners that gradually move the teeth might be an option.

If you have braces: Good oral hygiene is especially important for teens with braces. Your dentist may recommend avoiding certain foods that could damage braces or accidentally bend the wires. These foods may include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods like chewing gum, caramel or other chewy candy.

Wisdom Teeth Wisdom teeth get their name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood. Most permanent teeth have come in by age 13, and your wisdom teeth should come in between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes they do not have enough room to come in normally or are in the wrong position to erupt properly.   When that happens, your dentist may refer you to a specialist for extractions before complications develop.

Gum Disease Gum disease may seem like a dental problem that affects only adults, but it often starts during the teenage years. In fact, 60% of 15-year-olds experience gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Gingivitis, which involves the gums but not the underlying bone and ligament, is almost always caused by an accumulation of plaque.

If you remove plaque regularly and follow good oral hygiene habits, your gums usually will return to their healthy state. However, more serious gum disease can cause gums to swell, turn red, and bleed, and sometimes causes discomfort. So if you notice that your gums are bleeding while flossing or that you have bad breath, ask a parent to schedule a dental appointment. Your dentist can make a proper diagnosis and recommend treatment to treat the gum disease.

Bruxism (Tooth Grinding) It’s not uncommon for teens to “stress out” about things – a big test at school, a new relationship, making the team or being accepted to the college of your choice. Unfortunately, that stress can translate into dental damage if it leads to grinding your teeth. Tooth grinding (bruxism) wears down the teeth and also could lead to temporomandibular disorder (TMJ), a painful condition that makes it difficult to open and close the mouth.

If you’ve noticed that your jaw is sore in the morning, you hear a clicking sound when opening or closing your mouth and/or your teeth are sensitive, you could be grinding your teeth at night. Make an appointment to see your dentist, who may recommend a splint to wear at bedtime to protect your teeth and help relieve your symptoms.

Drinking Soda The number of teenagers who consume soda today has nearly doubled from what it was several years ago. Sodas and other carbonated beverages typically contain an excessive amount of sugars and acidic flavorings that erode tooth enamel, which can ultimately lead to tooth decay.

You can calculate the number of teaspoons of sugar that you are consuming by dividing the grams of sugar per serving by 4.  Be aware that some cans of pop are more than one serving!  Some cans of pop contain up to 11 teaspoons of sugar in one serving!

The bacteria in your mouth take the sugar and produce more acids which increase your risk of decay substantially.  Drinking water after soda helps to rinse your mouth and reduce your risk of cavities. To help keep your teeth strong for your lifetime, limit your intake of carbonated beverages.

The Minnesota Dental Association is leading the effort to educate people about this important public health problem through its Sip All Day, Get Decay® campaign. For more information on the effects of and preventing damage from soda, click here.

Mouthguards If you play sports or are active in things like skateboarding or snowboarding, it’s a good idea to wear a mouthguard. It may feel funny at first, but mouthguards are the best thing you can do to protect your teeth.  Mouth guards help protect against chipped or broken teeth, root and bone damage, and tooth loss. Whenever there’s a chance you’ll be in contact with other players or hard surfaces, wearing a mouth guard makes sense. If you don’t have one, see your dentist to be fitted for a custom and durable mouth guard.

Smoking  If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, it’s time to quit. Smoking and/or chewing tobacco stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, and increases your risk of developing periodontal disease (gum disease) and oral cancer. If you use tobacco products, be honest about it with your dentist or hygienist. Be sure to discuss any problems you may be experiencing with your mouth, too.

Oral Piercings  Oral piercings may look cool, but they can be dangerous to your health. If you’re tempted to pierce your lip, cheek or tongue, be advised that such piercings come with significant risks. Oral piercings put you at risk for chipping your teeth while eating, sleeping, chewing and talking. The damage caused by tongue piercings can lead to tooth fractures that may ultimately need fillings, crowns or even root canals.  Oral piercings can also damage the soft tissue around your teeth.  For all of these reasons we recommend removing oral piercings permanently.

Eating Disorders Eating disorders commonly arise during the teen years from a variety of complex physical, emotional and social issues. They can also be devastating to your oral health. An eating disorder can lead to bleeding gums and chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can affect teeth too. When strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth, the tooth’s enamel can be lost, resulting in changes to your teeth’s color, shape and length. The edges of teeth can also become thin and break off.

Dentists can usually identify eating disorders based on the effects, and can recommend psychological counseling or offer a referral to a physician. Although dentists can restore teeth damaged by the acid erosion caused by the constant purging using dental crowns, composite fillings and other treatments, they cannot treat the eating disorder.

A healthy and pleasing smile is an important part of a teen’s positive self-image. In addition to brushing, flossing, maintaining a healthy diet and visiting your dentist on a regular basis, being aware of the issues discussed above will help ensure a healthy and attractive smile for years to come. The staff at Glen Oaks Dental looks forward to providing quality dental care and a great dental experience for your teen. Call us today at 763-786-8460 to schedule an appointment!

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