When you’re a teenager, your body and your lifestyle undergo a lot of changes—some of which can affect your dental health. Let’s look at some of the risks to your teeth of being a teenager.
Wisdom teeth normally make an appearance between the ages of 17 and 21. If a teen’s mouth is small or the teeth are crowded, the dentist will likely recommend removal of the wisdom teeth. It is easiest to remove wisdom teeth at this age rather than later, as the tooth’s root is not yet fully formed.
During puberty, the body increases its output of hormones, creating a spike in testosterone or estrogen levels within the body. These can affect the blood flow to the gums, and can cause gum sensitivity, bleeding and general irritation. Hormones can also increase the buildup of plaque and tartar, and all of these things can potentially lead to gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease.
Teenagers are more likely to choose what they eat than younger children, and often opt for sugary or carb-filled snacks. Eating these types of foods, along with candy and sugary drinks can erode tooth enamel and lead to an increase in cavities.
Eating disorders can present themselves during the teenage years as teens struggle to fit in, including binging, bulimia and anorexia. Oral health problems generated by these disorders include tooth decay, sensitive gums and teeth, tooth erosion, and possibly tooth loss.
With peer pressure, teens may begin to take illegal drugs. Methamphetamines can affect teeth by staining, rotting, blackening them and causing them to crumble. This is commonly known as “meth mouth.” Even marijuana has its problems. It can cause dry mouth, destroying the helpful benefits of the saliva that normally helps prevent gum disease and cavities.
Tobacco use most often begins in the teen years, and besides the risk of oral cancer, smoking stains teeth, causes halitosis (bad breath), and contributes to gum disease which can lead to bone loss and tooth loss. Regular oral cancer screenings are recommended for teens who smoke.
Braces and other Orthodontic Devices
Because access to the teeth is restricted by orthodontic devices, cleaning them can be more difficult. Extra care should be taken now to ensure good dental health long after these devices are removed.
Installing a foreign device into the oral cavity or tongue can lead to fractured teeth, infection and blood-borne diseases, speech difficulties, bleeding gums, and an increased risk of gum disease.
Being pregnant has its own challenges when it comes to dental health. Increased hormones can lead to sensitive and bleeding gums, gingivitis, and gum disease. (See our post on Pregnancy and Dental Care.)
Poor Dental Hygiene
All of the above factors can cause problems in a young person’s dental health, but can be mitigated with good dental hygiene. Teens should brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day, use an anti-cavity fluoride rinse in the evening, and try to eat a healthy diet.
Your dentist might recommend preventive strategies including dental sealants, topical fluoride treatments, and perform tooth restoration when needed in the cases of cavities or broken teeth.
And don’t forget to visit the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings. Your dentist will remove plaque and tartar and chart any changes in the dental area.
Your Reston-based Family Dentist: Advanced Family Dentistry
Choosing a family dentist insures that your family’s oral health will be taken care of throughout their lifetime. As a family dentist, Advanced Family Dentistry follows your dental health from childhood through adulthood, keeping abreast of any changes and recommending the best options for healthy teeth and gums throughout your lifetime.
When you need a family dentist in Northern Virginia, choose us. Contact us today to schedule your visit.
Dr. Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.
Advanced Family Dentistry
Dr. Sonny Kim, DMD
11876 Sunrise Valley Dr, Suite 101
Reston, VA 20191