Teenagers take great pride in their appearance, but they seem to miscalculate the work it entails to maintain a healthy smile. Add in their new found independence and social lives and they’re just too busy to be giving extra attention to their teeth or to be going to their check-ups.
As a registered dental hygienist, I try to emphasize how important it is for adolescents to maintain proper dental hygiene. Did you know that dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17? Cavities are not just for little kids, and the fact that teeth are actually one of the first things people notice, it’s vital that teens make the effort to keeping their oral hygiene in good order.
Here are 5 easy tips your teens can use to not have to worry about ‘watching’ their mouths.
- Make it a part of your day: it’s easy to maintain dental health when it’s part of your daily routine of things to do; brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once can greatly reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum buildup. If your teen wears dental braces, makes sure their brushing and flossing after every meal to avoid debris getting stuck to their teeth and wires
- Play it safe: it’s all fun and games until someone loses a tooth! More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year, so if your teen is involved in contact sports it’s important they use a mouth guard. Make sure they rinse it often and store it in a ventilated container
- Keep it clean: it’s normal to grab a quick snack in between classes or activities, but it’s what kind of snack they choose that’s important. Foods and drinks loaded with sugar can wreak havoc on teeth, causing cavities and damage the tooth enamel. Opt for something healthier like fruits, veggies and cheese sticks. Remember, apples are nature’s toothbrush!
- Where there’s smoke there’s….: studies continuously show tobacco users usually start smoking in their teens. It’s imperative that parents sit and discuss the health and dental consequences of using tobacco products, such as tooth and gum staining, dental tartar build-up and stinky breath.
- Avoid oral piercings: although tongue and lip piercings remain a trend with teens, it’s also very dangerous. Not only do you run the risk of having your tongue swell and sometimes become infected after being punctured, but you can also chip you teeth from the mouth jewelry which can cause the need for fillings and sometimes even a root canal.
Although thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the grooves to remove food and plaque.
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often and protect these vulnerable areas by ‘sealing out’ plaque and food. They are very easy to be applied: your dental professional just paints them onto the tooth enamel where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. They can last for up to several years.
Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups to ensure the sealants don’t need to be reapplied and that no other dental issues are arising.