Raising teenagers presents its own set of challenges, and the same goes for promoting their oral health. From sugary snacks and drinks to tobacco habits and more, teenagers are at risk for cavities, decay, and long-term dental issues.
Unlike with young children, it can be difficult to promote, encourage, and assist in getting your teenager on the right path with their oral health. We’ve put together a few key points you should pay attention to, in order to help your teenager achieve better oral health.
1. Xylitol and fluoride
Xylitol is a sweetener recognized by the ADA for its cavity-preventing power. You can find xylitol gum in your local health food store. Encourage your teen to choose this over sugary chewing gums, an easy swap that can provide serious benefits for their teeth!
Fluoride is another naturally occurring substance, often found in toothpaste. Using fluoride, including in toothpaste when utilized properly, can help prevent tooth decay by as much as 50-70%. Be wary of too much fluoride– although a certain amount is needed to reap the benefits, excess fluoride can lead to fluorosis.
Be sure to follow your pediatric dentist’s instructions on suggested fluoride use and possible supplements, if needed.
2. Sports Drinks and Mouth Guards
Sports are an excellent way for teens to practice discipline and commitment, bond with peers, and enjoy healthy exercise. But, there are a few sports-related habits that can be quite concerning to your dentist!
Many teen athletes drink sports drinks, touted for their electrolyte-rich recipes and hydration capabilities. But, sports drinks are alarmingly high in sugar and acids, which can erode even fluoride-rich enamels and seriously damage teeth.
Teach your teens about the risks of sports drinks, and proper use of these drinks, including reducing frequency, swallowing immediately instead of swishing, and alternating with sips of water to wash away harmful sugars and acids.
When participating in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. While most people are aware of the risks of broken bones, pulled muscles, and concussions, oral injuries are also common in sports and shouldn’t be ignored.
A properly fitting mouth guard can help protect your teen against serious oral injuries, like broken and chipped teeth. By now, your teen most likely has most or all of their permanent teeth, so remember that unlike baby teeth, these can’t be replaced!
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.
3. Tongue piercings
Although the sight of an oral piercing – including tongue, lips, and cheeks– may not be as shocking today as it once was, the dangers of these piercings is certain to raise alarm.
Some issues associated with oral piercings are: chipped or cracked teeth, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums or scar tissue. The human mouth is full of bacteria– and when you consider infection as a common side-effect of piercings, you can see the danger clearly. In some cases, the tongue can swell large enough to block off your airway!
Your teen might think these piercings look cool, but you’ll want to warn them– excessive saliva, swelling, and bleeding may not add to the look they’re going for.
So, consider educating your teen about these potential side effects, including serious issues like pain, blood clots, and nerve damage. It’s best to skip the piercing and opt for a different way to express oneself.
There are about a million reasons parents don’t want their teens touching tobacco. Tobacco poses serious risks to overall health, one of the most serious concerns being oral cancer.
Although some teens opt for chewing tobacco, or “snuff,” as a perceived safer alternative to cigarettes, studies show that snuff is actually more addictive than cigarette smoking, and one can per day can deliver as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes!
In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce pre-cancerous lesions called leukoplakias. Eventually, it can lead to oral cancer.
Talk to your teen about tobacco in ALL forms, not just cigarettes. Cessation or avoidance of tobacco saves lives.
With a growing set of permanent teeth and endless decisions to make, teenagers may need guidance and education to properly care for their oral health. You may not need to assist with brushing or flossing anymore, but a new set of concerns should be addressed. Help your teen take precautions around their oral health, as these formative years can build a great foundation for future dental health, or lead to lasting consequences.
A great dentist can help keep your teen on track with their oral care, and at Kennedy Dental Care, we specialize in the care of children and teens. One of the best ways to encourage lifelong oral health is to find your “dental home”– a place where your child can feel safe, comfortable, and welcome in their oral care. Kennedy Dental Care provides friendly service, thorough information, and a welcoming dental and orthodontics environment for childrens, teens, and families in Texas.
Let us help you keep your families smiling. Learn more about Kennedy Dental Care, your dental home in Texas, here.