Promoting Oral Health Through the Teenage Years

teens studying

The teenage years are filled with many milestones as children begin to make the passage into adulthood. As teens begin to assert their independence and stay busy with school, jobs, sports, and social obligations, their oral health is often neglected. This creates the ideal circumstance for tooth decay and other oral health concerns like periodontal disease to run rampant. Let's consider some ways you can help your teen navigate these tumultuous years while still caring for his oral health.

Oral health concerns facing teenagers

There are some unique dental heath concerns that teenagers often face. Some of the most common include:

  • Braces. Since teenagers typically care a lot about how they look, some might be resistant to the idea of braces. It's important to remind them, however, that the benefits of braces go beyond aesthetics. Straightened teeth are easier to clean and thus promote good oral health.
  • Smoking. The teenager years are known for experimentation, which often includes trying cigarettes for the first time. The oral health consequences associated with smoking are many and include: stained teeth, increased risk of gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancers.
  • Mouth piercings. Teenagers commonly want to express their identities through outward appearances. Sometimes, this expression involves bodily piercing, including piercing of the lips, tongue, cheeks, and uvula. Complications associated with these types of oral piercings include: infection, aspirated jewelry, speech problems, chipped teeth, or even serious systemic infections like hepatitis.

How can parents encourage positive dental health habits?

Teenagers are notorious for wanting to make independent decisions. As such, they might be resistant to your efforts to help them maintain a healthy smile. Fortunately, there are subtle ways you can encourage your teen to make good choices when it comes to oral health. Consider the following tips:

  • Lead by example. You might feel like you're invisible to your teenager sometimes, but the truth is, they're still very aware of your actions and choices. Thus, it's important to set a good example for your teen when it comes to oral health. Make sure you're taking care of your own dental health by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Don't skip those preventive check-ups, either. If you expect your teenager to go to the dentist, hold yourself accountable too.
  • Avoid buying junk food. If junk food isn't in the house in the first place, your teenager is less likely to partake in sugary treats that have detrimental consequences for his oral health. So, toss those cookies, chips, and donuts in favor of healthier-- and teeth-friendly-- alternatives like cucumbers, apples, and yogurt.
  • Help your teenager understand the consequences of poor oral hygiene. Sometimes, teenagers need to understand why you expect certain things from them before they'll comply with your wishes. So, help them understand the consequences associated with poor oral health. Let's face it: teenagers care a lot about appearances. Talk to them about bacteria on the tongue causing halitosis. Show them pictures of patients who have lost teeth as a result of periodontal disease.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Teenagers have some unique concerns when it comes to their oral health. Two of the most common include smoking and mouth piercings. As a parent, it's important to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to these types of oral health concerns that are often related to peer pressure. Instead of telling them that smoking and mouth piercings are forbidden, talk to them about the negative side effects and dangers associated with these choices.

Remember: if good oral health habits are established in childhood, they're more likely to carry over into the teen years and beyond. For additional tips regarding your teen's dental health, contact us today.