Best Dental Health Practices for Teenagers

Although teenagers rarely think of healthy habits as cool, it is crucial that as a parent, you make sure they do not skimp on basic care practices. Healthy dental care like daily brushing and flossing and regular visits to the family dentist will help keep their smile bright and beautiful for a lifetime.

Why Teens Tend to Be Disinterested in Oral Hygiene

Teenagers are usually busy with friends, school, jobs, and social activities. Due to their busy schedule, most of them tend to slack on proper oral hygiene. Many do not understand its importance. For instance, when they are running late for school or practice, they may not have enough time to brush their teeth for the two recommended minutes. Still, it is your duty to ensure that your child practices good oral hygiene.

Teenagers and Common Dental Health Issues

Orthodontics

Orthodontics, popularly known as braces can interfere with optimal oral hygiene. These mouth devices contain elastics, wires, and brackets that obstruct proper tooth brushing. Hence, it is crucial that your teen is properly trained and advised by a dentist on the best ways to effectively clean their mouth to remove food debris and plaque.

Sports Trauma

If your teen is actively involved in sports that include a lot of contact with others, ensure that they use a mouthguard to protect their jaw, teeth, and head from impact. These guards are available in many forms with some even being custom made for a better fit.

Sugar Loaded Diets

Today, most of the foods that teenagers eat, including sports drinks, are loaded with sugar. Studies show that such diets significantly increase their chances of tooth decay.

A particular study on school children showed that those who snacked regularly on potato chips and cookies were four times more likely to get cavities. As a parent, you should make sure that your teenager eats a balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates, such as bread, are broken down into sugars that can lead to decay.

Essential Dental Care for Teenagers

Proper brushing and flossing

For starters, teenagers need to practice good oral hygiene by brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. They should practice proper brushing technique which includes;

  • Placing the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums
  • Using short gentle strokes to brush in a circular motion
  • Brushing for at least 2 minutes per session

For flossing, it is crucial that you clean between your teeth at least once a day to remove decay-causing bacteria that a standard toothbrush can’t reach.

Avoidance of restricted foods and drinks

Your teen’s food choices affect their oral and overall health. They should avoid restricted foods like junk and sugary drinks as they can impair their dental health. Instead, promote healthy snacking on fruits, and vegetables and even cheese to help fight bacteria and reduce plaque build-up on the teeth.

Daily topical fluoride use

Regular topical fluoride is crucial for healthy teeth and bones. It also prevents tooth decay. Make sure to use a fluoridated toothpaste.

Regular oral hygiene visits

These visits play a significant role in your teenager’s oral health. Do not let your teen skip these visits no matter how tight their schedule is. Instead, encourage them to be treated professionally.

Wear a mouthguard during contact sports

If your kid is active in various sports such as football, skateboarding or basketball, it is important that they always wear a mouthguard when playing. This dental device does a great job at protecting their teeth from breaking or chipping by cushioning the intensity of the impact from a fall or a blow to the face.

Teenagers Dental Health and Nutrition

Eating healthy, nutritional food helps to keep your teeth and body healthy. Avoid eating or drinking too many sweets and sugary drinks. According to the American Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a balanced diet should include;

  • Dairy: Always eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Grains: half of all the grains you eat need to be whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread
  • Fruits and Vegetables: fruits and veggies should make up half of what you eat on a daily basis
  • Lean protein: when shopping for proteins, go for lean proteins like fish, skinless poultry, and lean beef. Also, make sure to vary your choices by including peas, eggs, beans, and legumes.

Educate on the Negative Effects of Smoking

Parents should take the time to educate their teenagers on the dangers and adverse effects of smoking on their health and teeth. They should also strive to maintain a tobacco-free home and have regular discussions with their teens about the benefits of not smoking. Some of the mouth-related dangers of smoking you should talk about with your teen include;

Potential Dangers of Mouth Piercings

Infection

The human mouth contains living bacteria. When you get mouth piercing, you increase your chances of getting an infection at the site of the piercing from these bacteria. Food particles may also collect around the piercing and create a conducive breeding ground for bacteria.

Affect surrounding tissues

Oral piercing is a potential risk for surrounding tissues and is known for transmitting hepatitis B and C and herpes simplex virus which can cause inflammation. Tongue and lip piercings lead to gum recession around the lower incisors. This, in turn, can lead to hypersensitivity  and wear of the exposed root surfaces and even tooth mobility.

Tongue swelling

Sometimes, mouth piercing can cause swelling in the mouth, especially the tongue. There have been cases where the tongue swelled after a piercing to the extent of blocking airways.

Teeth can crack, chip and break

The jewellery placed after a piercing can knock on your teeth, causing it to chip, crack or break.

Affects your mouths function

Depending on the location of your piercing, it can get in the way of food, making it hard for you to eat or swallow. The jewellery placed also stimulates saliva flow, making talking challenging.

Interferes with regular oral cleanliness

The jewellery can get in the way of your regular brushing, especially if it is big.

Interferes with dental treatment

The jewellery can inhibit dental treatments, particularly where an x-ray is required.

How to Encourage Teenagers to Look After Their Teeth

Use Teen-Based Products

The lack of oral hygiene products that are tailored for teens can cause some teens to slack in their oral hygiene. Try appealing to your teen’s taste and style through the use of oral products specifically made and designed for teenagers as they can coax them into proper oral hygiene.

Try Apps and Timers

One of the main reasons why teens slack on proper hygiene is the percieved lack of time to brush for the recommended 2 minutes. Smartphone apps and timers can help them to become more aware of how long they need to brush. You can even use a 3-minute song to guide them on how long they should brush their teeth for.

Limit Soda and Candy

If allowed, some teens can exist on a steady diet of candy, chips, and soda. Unfortunately, such a diet only wreaks havoc to their dental and overall health. As a parent, make sure you have healthy treats, meals, and drinks readily available to encourage your teen to eat a healthier diet.

Appeal to Confidence

Teens are conscious of their looks. Hence appealing to their look can be a great way to nudge them toward proper oral hygiene. Gently remind them that slacking in proper oral hygiene may result in bad breath or stained teeth. If you notice that your teen is cautious about their smile, consider approved whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes to help improve their confidence.

Use Mouthwash

Including mouthwash into your teen’s regular oral hygiene routine helps gums and teeth stay healthy. Mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay and reduces the formation of dental plaque. They will also reap the benefits of fluoride mouth rinse to protect against cavities. Mouthwashes should be used as an adjunct to brushing not instead of it. They should be used around 30 minutes after brushing not immediately.

Regular dental checkups

Some dental issues may not be evident to teenagers, which is why you should schedule routine dental visits at least once every year, or more if advised.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.