Dental Care for Teens
With extra care and some gentle reminders from loved ones, a teen's oral health will be in great shape for the college years and beyond.
Keep an eye out to make sure your teen is maintaining good oral health habits
- Teens usually have a good grip on oral health basics and should continue to brush twice a day and floss once daily.
- An initial orthodontist visit at age 7 is recommended as the permanent teeth erupt. The orthodontist can keep an eye on the development of your child's teeth and jaws. If the teeth aren't aligning correctly, braces may be recommended.
- Orthodontics such as braces are usually applied between the ages of 8 and 14 and are typically worn for one to three years.
- While your child wears braces, be careful to avoid foods like caramel, gum, pretzels, popcorn, and ice. Even when eating healthy foods like apples and carrots, your child needs to be aware of how best to bite down on them.
Signs that your child may need braces include:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Trouble chewing or biting
- Thumb or finger sucking
- Crowded teeth
- Biting cheeks or roof of mouth
- Teeth that meet incorrectly or not at all
Buy sugar-free gum if your teen chews gum and isn't wearing braces
- Gum that contains sugar promotes tooth decay by essentially bathing teeth in sugar water multiple times each day. Just the opposite is true for sugarless varieties.
- Chewing sugar-free gum can help wash away food particles and harmful acids by stimulating saliva flow by up to 10 times the normal amount.
- Chewing gum containing xylitol can also be helpful when it comes to battling harmful acids and bacteria in the mouth.
Keep healthy snacks on hand for hungry teens, but don't stock up on sodas and sports drinks
- The average teen eats approximately nine times a day. Stock the fridge with healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, and cheese.
- Cut back on burying soda or sports drinks. While it's not good to indulge in these drinks at any age, teenagers' teeth are especially susceptible to these sugary, acidic drinks because their tooth enamel is still immature and porous.
Have your teen wear a mouth guard during sports
- Mouth guards should be worn for almost any sport, especially if there's potential for contact with surfaces, other players, or equipment. Mouth guards should be worn for baseball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, softball, wrestling, water polo, and rugby.
- Mouth guards are also recommended for skateboarding and bicycling.
- In addition to keeping teeth safe, mouth guards can also minimize lacerated and bruised lips and cheeks by keeping these soft tissues away from the teeth.
- Your child's dentist is able to recommend the best type of mouth guard for your child.
Say no to tongue or lip piercings
- Oral jewelry such as tongue and lip piercings can cause chipped or even fractured teeth, infections, allergic reactions, swollen tissue, and swelling of the tongue. They can even be choking hazards.
- If your teen does get an oral piercing, great care should be taken in caring for it. The piercing should be cleaned with antiseptic mouthwash after every meal. The jewelry should be brushed just as teeth are and removed while sleeping, eating, or participating in strenuous activity.
- Learn more about the risks of oral piercings.
Help your teen avoid tobacco and tobacco products
Teach your teen to avoid smoking and all tobacco products. Learn the risks of tobacco and how it can harm oral health.
Early detection of oral cancer is key
When detected in the early stages, oral cancer is one of the more treatable cancers. Read more about avoiding oral cancer and how your child's regular dental visits can help in prevention and early detection.