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Oral Health Issues Specific to Teens

By Pamela Li, in News, on February 11, 2014 | Comments (0)

Teenager with bracesOttawa, Ontario – For most of us, we can remember the teenage years very well – and all the agony that can go along with it. Teens face unique challenges to fit in, and with bullying reports at an all-time high, teens face enormous pressure to fit in. Don’t let their oral health be one of those.

“Teenagers face immense pressure to fit in,” says Ottawa dentist Dr. Pamela Li. “From having the right clothes and shoes, to being involved in the right activities, they are bombarded every day. Bullying is at an all-time high. Don’t let your child’s poor oral health be a contributing factor.”

Did you know that halitosis, or bad breath, is a fairly common occurrence during the teen years? This is often due to improper oral health care and poor diets. And in addition to causing breath that makes no one want to get near them, this can also lead to a higher risk of tooth decay.

Dr. Li reports that nearly 21 percent of children ages 6 to 11 have some sort of decay, and that number increases to a whopping 67 percent during the teen years, 16 to 19.

The best way to avoid bad breath and tooth decay is to start an oral care regimen at an early age, as well as maintain regular visits to a dentist. Teens need to take special care to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once per day. The tongue can hold a lot of plaque and bacteria because of its rough surface. It is important to clean the surface of their tongue every day with a toothbrush or a special tongue scraper.  Teenagers can also become dehydrated from sweating and exercise so they must keep themselves hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  A dry mouth can lead to increased inflammation and bad breath.

Dental sealants provide a coating that acts as a barrier for the tooth, protecting it from cavities. They are typically applied to the tooth’s chewing surface and cover the pits and grooves found in the teeth. Sealants can be put on by a family dentist, and provide great protection against decay. They hold up well over time, but just because you have a sealant that doesn’t mean you can skimp on your oral health care!

Fluoride is another important aspect of any good dental care regimen. Fluoride strengthens the enamel of the teeth to make them strong enough to fight against decay.  Dr. Li uses a fluoride varnish that is very effective.  The sticky varnish sticks to the teeth for several hours so the fluoride has a longer time to remineralize the tooth surface.

Crooked or misaligned teeth are another problem teens face. When their baby teeth begin to fall out and be replaced by permanent ones, the results can be less than perfect. And for many teens, this can lead to teasing and embarrassment. The British Dental Journal recently published a report on bullying and schoolchildren and found that certain dental characteristics, such as dental malocclusions, can lead to increased instances of bullying. This can then lead to a decrease in self-esteem and a downward spiral into negative oral health care.

But there is a great answer that can help teens achieve a better and healthier smile, without getting teased about having a metal mouth. Invisalign Teen is a clear, comfortable, removable teeth straightening option. The teen simply wears a set of aligners and replaces them with new ones every two weeks. Over the course of treatment, the aligners elicit a gentle yet effective force that guides the teeth into their ideal locations. Because the aligners are virtually invisible, Invisalign allows teens the discreteness they may desire. And because they are also removable, they can eat and drink as usual as well as maintain their standard oral care regimen.

Teens need to be sure they use mouthguards to protect their teeth and mouths while involved in sports. Most teens are aware of the risks when playing some sports such as hockey or rugby but they are not aware of the risks of some other sports such as basketball, volleyball or soccer. Mouthguards work to cushion blows to the face that could result in lip or tooth injuries, jaw fractures, TMJ problems and concussions. Your dentist can help you determine which mouthguard is right for you.

The most important thing for teens to remember during these years is that visits to the dentist are just as important to maintain as their get-togethers with their friends. Without realizing it, skipping dental visits or skimping on their oral care regimen can do lifelong damage to their teeth. Patients should see a dentist at least every six months, and follow all care instructions as provided by the dentist. With a little extra attention, oral health issues don’t have to add to the already long list of things our teens worry about.

© 2014 Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.


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