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Teenagers and Good Dental Health

January 31, 2023 ABC Children's Dentistry

While it is not easy to get small children to follow a good dental routine, it may be next to impossible to convince teenagers that brushing, flossing and going to the dentist are very necessary to supporting their overall health.  However, many studies show links between good oral health and other parts in the body such as the heart, brain and the immune system.  How can parents encourage their teens to take care of their oral health?   What are some things to look for concerning dental care when your child reaches the ages of 13 to 18?

Unique Oral Health Concerns of Teenagers 

While teens are more likely to follow a regular brushing and care routine without prompting than small children are, they still engage in behaviors that can cause problems for their overall dental health.  These include:

  • Skipping the floss. Young people want to have fresh breath, so they tend to brush quickly and rinse with mouthwash, chew gum or use breath mints to make their mouths smell “minty.”  On the other than, they may be too impatient to spend time properly flossing, a critical step in preventing gingivitis.  You or your dentist can discuss with your teen the risks of tooth loss and decay associated with avoiding flossing to help stop this problem.  You may also want to invest in a water flosser, which can provide an easier way for teens to reach back teeth.
  • Oral piercings. If your teen wants a lip or tongue piercing and you agree to it, be aware of the health risks associated with these procedures.  While they can certainly be done safely, teens do have a habit of playing around with the sensitive piercing in the weeks after it is done; this can introduce bacteria into the area and cause an infection.  If you are going to allow piercings, be sure to follow up to be sure your teen is properly maintaining the site to prevent infection.
  • Smoking, vaping and tobacco use. Even though smoking, vaping and tobacco use have been thoroughly denounced as unsafe for teens and adults, many still engage in these practices.  For teens, smokeless chewing tobacco or “dip” is probably the most likely to cause oral issues, but all tobacco is inherently dangerous.  If your teen smokes or dips, talk with him or her about counseling and other measures to quit.  Vaping, while it is often advertised as safer than smoking, holds just as many risks for oral health and should also be avoided.
  • Alcohol use. If your teen drinks, he or she runs several health risks.  Not only are quite a few diseases, both short- and long-term, associated with alcohol use, but the risk of taking dangerous chances and being involved in accidents that can cause injury to the teeth and mouth also increase.
  • Diet and exercise. Teens need a fresh, healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients to grow and thrive.  Their diet directly impacts all areas of their health, including their teeth and gums.  Focusing on a healthy diet for teenagers is one of the best ways of ensuring their teeth are healthy, too!

If you are interested in learning more about how to project your teen’s oral health, give us a call at ABC Children’s Dentistry.  We are here to help parents ensure their children maintain healthy, happy smiles for life!