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Dental Care and Your Teen

As children transition from childhood to adulthood, the teenage years can pose their own set of challenges for maintaining good oral health. Keeping an open dialogue, encouraging positive habits, and regularly visiting a pediatric dentist can help keep dental problems at bay for teens.

Dental Care During the Teenage Years

Between the ages of 12 and 17, a teenager is undergoing many changes, and it's easy for dental health to take a back seat. Education and communication can go a long way and it's important to explain the reasoning behind keeping up the habits of brushing and flossing twice each day. Bad breath, yellowed teeth, dental pain from gum disease, and cavities can be avoided with diligent oral hygiene.

For parents, one of the best available resources for education and counseling is your pediatric dentist. Part of your child's healthcare team, the pediatric dentist can offer advice to teens on why and how to maintain the best oral health. Because of this, it is important to visit the dentist twice each year. Regular checkups help to keep teeth clean, treat any cavities, and monitor for gum disease, orthodontic needs, or potential issues with wisdom teeth.

Teenage Orthodontia

Another reason to maintain regular checkups with a pediatric dentist is to evaluate the need for orthodontics. Orthodontic treatment is very common for teens and thanks to new developments, there are more options than ever to fix poorly aligned bites (called malocclusions) and crooked teeth. Periodic testing for these can include creating a mold of the teeth and their alignment (called a study model), or performing X-rays to see if braces are indicated. And for teens with braces, oral hygiene becomes more important than ever. Special attention to flossing and brushing prevents damage or buildup of plaque and food around braces.

Wisdom teeth extraction can also be a big event in a teenager's dental development. In some cases of impacted wisdom teeth, the extraction can be painful and require pain medications for several days. In these cases, however, the pain typically subsides within a week.

Behavioral Risks and Teen Dental Care

There are many activities and behaviors that teens may engage in that put their dental health at risk. Education about the risks and consequences of behaviors such as tobacco use and oral piercings is critical, and a pediatric dentist can help complement this education with additional advice. Tobacco, both smoked and chewed, can cause myriad health issues. Stained teeth and bad breath are immediate effects of tobacco, but more serious outcomes such as gum disease and oral cancers may occur later on.

Oral piercings are another potential hazard for dental health and it's important for teens to have as much information as possible to make good decisions. Piercings in the tongue, lips, or cheeks may result in uncontrollable bleeding, blood clots, or infection, and the jewelry used can cause chipped or broken teeth, gum damage, or choking.

Teens also commonly engage in sports which may implicate the use of a mouth guard. Sports like football, hockey, and wrestling can be hazardous, and a mouth guard can protect from chipped or broken teeth, along with injuries to the cheeks, lips, and tongue.

Maintaining an open dialogue with teens about dental health can help them make good choices about oral hygiene, maintenance, and behavioral risks. Regular checkups with a pediatric dentist become more important than ever to continue to monitor the dental health of your teen, as well as serve as another source for council and advice about preserving good oral health.

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