Ages 16 – 18

Teenagers and Dental Concerns

Teenagers are experimenting with many things at this time as they try and decide who they are and what they want to be. Teens have many stresses and expectations on them. They often stay up late into the night and skip their night time toothbrushing routines. They also eat more as they go through growth spurts, and burn more calories because of increased sporting activities. Studying, being on social media or video gaming tend to lead to more snacking, and teens often reach for a sweet drink or sugary treat to make them feel better when feeling stressed. Even worse, some teens start to vape or smoke in an effort to feel like they belong to a group or in response to peer pressure. Unfortunately these changing life styles will often show up in the mouth as cavities, gum disease, increased sensitivity of their teeth and jaws, or in changes to the mouth tissues.

For these reasons it is important to try and help your teen to stick to routines such as twice daily brushing and flossing and to make sure they maintain and develop healthy eating habits. Helping your teen have healthy coping strategies for stress will have life-long benefits and help to keep them safe as they enter adulthood.  Making sure your teen keeps up on their twice yearly dental check-ups is more important than ever, as many problems that develop in the mouth can be reversed if detected early enough. If your teen can be motivated to take responsibility for their own oral health we will have done them a great service for their future.

Please call us and make an appointment for your teenager today!

If you have been waiting for your teenager to become more responsible, this may be a good age to consider braces. Most braces treatments take 2 years to complete and once your teen leaves school and starts work or college, it if often difficult for them to find the time to keep up on the orthodontic appointments needed to  complete the braces process. Once a few visits are missed, it can seem like the braces will never be finished and it is easy to become discouraged about completing the process. For this reason we recommend you start braces by age 16, so that the process may be completed before your teen leaves home for college, or starts working. Straight teeth not only look better, but are easier to keep clean and therefore less susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease. Braces do require your teenager to commit to excellent daily brushing and flossing throughout the entire braces process, otherwise serious tooth decay and gum disease can develop. If your teen is able to demonstrate their ability to maintain their oral health without braces, then they are probably ready for your investment in their future smile. Be sure to discuss any concerns that you may have regarding braces for your teenager with your pediatric dentist.

Bruxism is the clinical term for teeth grinding. Bruxism can cause abnormal wear and sensitivity of the teeth, pain in in the face, and in the jaw joint known as the TMJ. In teenagers, bruxism is fairly common, and is usually brought on by stress. School exams or emotionally upsetting situation such as breaking up with with a friend are common triggers for bruxism which often occurs in the night when you are sleeping.

Bruxism can be relieved by general stress reducing techniques such as exercise and mindful breathing. Some people find over-the-counter pain relievers helpful. You can also try alternating a warm and cold wash cloth over the tender joint, 10 minutes for each temperature. Changing your diet to softer and less chewy foods for a few days can help, and if you are chewing gum you should stop immediately because the high pressures generated from the chewing aggravate pain in the TMJ.

At Small To Tall Dentistry our doctors are trained to recognize problems associated with bruxism. Occasionally it is necessary to provide your teenager with a device called a night guard to prevent the grinding or to provide relief for the jaw pain. If would like more information about bruxism, TMJ pain or nightguards, give our office a call and make an appointment for an evaluation.

Mouth guards are a great and relatively inexpensive devices which can prevent serious dental injuries. Injuries occur in a split second. Just like wearing a seatbelt, you need the mouth guard in place before the accident occurs. High impact blows to the mouth cause teeth to break, be moved from their normal position, or even to be completely knocked out of the mouth. The rubbery material used to make the mouth guard protects the teeth when a baseball or elbow unexpectedly crashes into your face!

All dental injuries to the permanent adult teeth have serious life-long consequences, because unlike bones, teeth cannot heal themselves or re-grow after they have been injured. Dental injuries can be very expensive to treat, and may cost up to $20,000 over a life-time, depending on the severity of the injury. Mouth guards can prevent these events. Over-the-counter mouth guards work well if you are able to mold or cut them to fit your mouth comfortably.

Our Team at Small To Tall Dentistry are able to fabricate custom fitting mouth guards which are less bulky and fit more comfortably than the over-the-counter models. Be sure to ask us about mouth guards at your next dental check up, and remember to brush and clean your teeth and mouth guard after you have worn it!

Oral piercings  may look cool to a teenager, but they can be dangerous to their health. For instance, the mouth and tongue could swell so much after a piercing that that the airway may become blocked and breathing may stop! Choking is possible if part of the jewelry breaks off and gets stuck in the throat. Infection around the piercing site is common because the mouth contains millions of bacteria, and along with the foods and drinks we put into our mouths each day, there is a lot of gunk and junk to get lodged in and around the piercings. Serious infections including hepatitis or endocarditis (infection of the liver and heart) have been caused by oral piercings. Other problems we have encountered with oral piercings include cracked teeth, which may need expensive and complicated root canal and crown treatment, or in severe cases damaged teeth may even need to be removed. Tongue and lip piercings have also been responsible for gum recession, leading to tooth sensitivity and loosening of the teeth.

For these reasons we do not encourage or support the practice of piercings in or around the mouth.

Think cavities are a problem you outgrow along with Barbie dolls and action figures?  Not true! The National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research estimates that 59% of children aged 12-19 have cavities in their permanent teeth.  Gum disease is also becoming a significant problem with teens resulting in red or swollen gums that bleed or worse, lead to bad breath!  

With their hectic school schedules, teens have it tough as they assume greater responsibility for their own dental health and eating habits. Teens may not eat healthy foods as regularly as they used to and are more prone to frequent snacking throughout the day. Teens working on staying thin often sip on sweetened drinks or hard candy to reduce their appetite. Not only are these empty and unhealthy calories, but they cause a big build-up of damaging plaque, which is stickier, and more damaging to teeth than plaque which builds-up from healthy foods.

Did you know that the average teen eats nine times a day! Almost every time you eat there is an acid attack on the teeth. Each acid attack causes a little damage to the teeth, which over time adds up to cavities. Choose your snacks wisely. If you’re on the run, choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the candy bar.  Other examples of tooth friendly snacks are cheese, yogurt and peanut butter.

What about chewing gum? As long as its sugarless or better yet contains xylitol which believe or not actually fights cavities then gum is good to chew. You should avoid gum if you suffer from pains in the jaw joint – also known as TMJ.

Teens may feel that they have outgrown their need for dental visits with their pediatric dentist, and while this may be true, it is very important that teens continue with regular dental check ups and brush and floss every day. The habits that are formed during adolescence will carry over to adulthood. Remember, the teeth you have now are PERMANENT and when we mean permanent we mean FOREVER!

Make sure to keep up with your regular checkups to keep that great smile for the rest of your life.

Wisdom teeth  are the third and final set of molars to grow, and usually grow into the mouth around age 18. This is the age of majority, and so these teeth are affectionately referred to as wisdom teeth! Many mouths in the Western World are too small to fit wisdom teeth and these teeth are then referred to as being impacted. It is quite common for wisdom teeth to cause on-and-off pain which can be relieved with over-the-counter pain killers such as Tylenol or Motrin.  Some wisdom teeth do go on to cause dental infections, which can be extremely painful and cause difficulty with eating and opening the mouth. It is important to follow through, and have the wisdom teeth removed promptly if you have had an infection from them.

Our Dental Team will assess your teenagers wisdom teeth at various stages in their adolescence, and will recommend a referral to an oral surgeon for removing the teeth at the most appropriate time for your child. Most teenagers will have their wisdom teeth removed in 12th grade.

You know smoking is bad for you in general, so it should be no surprise that all forms of tobacco are harmful to your oral health. Vaping is equally, if not more dangerous as we know very little about what goes into a vape pen. Possible oral health impacts of these habits include:

  • stained teeth and tongue
  • dulled sense of taste and smell
  • slow healing after a tooth extraction or oral surgery
  • difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems
  • gum disease and tooth loss
  • oral cancer and death

Most smoking habits begin in the teen years and just like any other habit, it is very difficult to stop smoking once you start. The best protection against becoming a life-long smoker or tobacco user is not to start in the first place. While it may seem cool when you are hanging with your friends who are smoking, smoking is definitely not cool and the consequences are deadly.

Chewing tobacco while not affecting your lungs, is causing tiny changes in the gums, cheeks or lips – depending on where you place it. Over time, these small changes add up to become serious, and oral cancer develops. This is a devastating disease which may require large parts of your mouth and jaws to be removed in order to save your life!

Vaping is a new trend in teens which has been having deadly consequences for some only weeks after starting the habit. The chemicals and irritants in the vape products are absorbed into the blood system through the lungs and are rapidly transported to the brain. So even if our teen thinks it is “cotton candy flavor” – that flavor chemical ends up far away from your mouth! For this reason products containing nicotine are highly addictive, so even after only a few puffs you can be a nicotine addict!

There is little regulation over the content of the vaping products which are marketed as a safe alternative to tobacco. This is not true, and we have yet to find out the full impact that vaping is having on our teenagers developing lungs and brains.  The lips, cheeks, throat, tongue and gums are affected by the chemicals and the heat from the vape pen, and changes to the normal tissues can be seen during a regular dental check-up.

If your are concerned that your teen may be smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco please bring it up with our Dental Team, and make sure your teen keeps up on their twice yearly dental check-ups!

We are proud to say that our parents are the best informed parents out there!  Children often have many dental topics unique to their specific age group.  Have questions or wanted to know something more about a certain topic?  Click below to find a ton of useful dental information for your child’s age.