Oof, parents, there’s already a laundry list of important life lessons to impart to your teenagers, but here we are presenting yet another: the importance of dental care! Just like you encourage your teen to eat well, get enough sleep, and stay active, you also need to teach them how to take good care of their teeth. Now that they have a full set of adult teeth, there are no do-overs! The teeth they have now are the teeth they need to keep for the rest of their life. So in those rare quiet moments as you dart around to various soccer fields and gyms around Madison, here are 5 things to tell your teen about their teeth:
- 1. Vaping is bad for your teen’s teeth.
- 2. White teeth don’t necessarily mean they’re healthy.
- 3. Brushing and flossing don’t undo the effects of a poor diet.
- 4. Cleaning around orthodontics requires special care.
- 5. You can’t brush your teeth if you lose them!
1. Vaping is bad for your teen’s teeth.
Among teens, there’s a misconception that vaping is harmless because it’s smokeless. However, the ADA remains strong in its stance against tobacco products, from which nicotine is derived. In addition to affecting brain development in children, teens, and young adults, the ADA asserts that products containing nicotine, including e-cigarettes, cause “higher rates of tooth decay, gum disease, bone damage, tooth loss and more.”
If your teen vapes, it’s important to talk to him about the associated health risks, which are many. In addition to the toll it takes on dental health, nicotine use is also detrimental to mental health. Using nicotine during adolescence can harm the part of the brain that controls learning, mood, attention, and impulse control. Instead, help your teen find a positive way to deal with stress, such as exercise or taking up a new hobby.
For further reading: Is Vaping Bad for My Teen’s Teeth?
2. White teeth don’t necessarily mean they’re healthy.
Looking good for the team photo might have your teen taking to white strips and whitening toothpaste. But just because your teen’s teeth are white, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Gingivitis is a disease that causes gums to become red and inflamed, which can lead to infection.
A better test of oral health is to see how healthy the gums are. Gums should be firm and not red. If your teen’s gums bleed when he flosses, that’s his clue that he needs to work harder to keep his gums healthy, which includes brushing gently along the gum line when she brushes and flossing every day. A mouthwash can also help improve the health of gums as well.
3. Brushing and flossing don’t undo the effects of a poor diet.
Ah, the days when you could snack on a candy car and soda and then play a full game of soccer. While that would leave most adults face-down on the field, teens seem to power through their day no matter what’s in their tank. However, just because your teen *can* get away with a poor diet doesn’t mean he *should.*
While his weight may not be affected by an excess of sugar if he’s in sports, his teeth will most certainly be. Too much sugar and snacking on sticky starches will cause bacteria and tartar to build up on the teeth. Even great daily dental hygiene may not be enough to undo the eroding effects of sugar and acid in the diet. The CDC reports that “among adolescents aged 12 to 19, more than half (57%) have had a cavity in their permanent teeth.” Encourage your teen to get enough protein, fruits, veggies, and whole grain and limit sugar when possible.
4. Cleaning around orthodontics requires special care.
Busy schedules make time precious, but remind your teen that skipping brushing and flossing is a poor way to save time! This is especially true if your teen has braces. The brackets and wires act like a net to catch extra food debris, which poses an increased risk for cavities. If your teen has braces, she needs to make a special effort to brush and floss around each bracket and wire so she can enjoy a beautiful, healthy smile when she finally gets those braces off.
5. You can’t brush your teeth if you lose them!
For some sports, mouth guards simply have to be considered part of the uniform! Your teen might be more open to wearing them if you remind them of what’s been invested in his teeth already–years of check-ups, cleaning, restoration, possibly orthodontics–it would be such a waste to lose them! If your teen plays sports that puts him in close contact with someone else’s elbow on the regular, such as football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, it’s a good idea to get one.
Pediatric Dentistry in Madison, Wisconsin
Need to schedule your teen’s next appointment? Please contact us today! Affiliated Dentists offers general and pediatric dentistry in Madison, Wisconsin, along with a wide array of dental services including custom mouth guards, Invisalign and teeth whitening.
5 Things to Tell Your Teen About Their Teeth brought to you by Dr. Mark Gustavson