As teens enter into early adulthood they are faced with new risk factors for development of tooth decay. The prevention of cavities in these young adults is very important to the doctors and staff at Paediatric Dentistry. We hope to motivate teens to think more about their overall health by teaching the importance of good dental hygiene and better diet choices. Following are some of the many behaviors that pose risk for adolescents today and tips on how to decrease their chances of tooth decay.
Soda and Sports Drinks
Teens must spend more time at their desks studying and they tend to sip on sugar laden drinks while they are concentrating. This leads to constant bathing of the tooth structure in sugar and acids for hours at a time. Sugars and acids can erode and permanently damage tooth enamel.
Some drinks that have healthy sounding names like “Vitamin” still have about 10 teaspoons of sugar for every 12 ounces. Sports minded adolescents also have an increase in tooth decay from continual sipping of sweetened sports “nourishment” drinks during practices and games. Water is always the best drink for your teeth and body. Some commercial waters even have electrolytes without the sugar for better bodily recovery after exhaustive activities.
If teens must drink soda and other sugar filled beverages they should sip them through a straw. It can help decrease the amount of sugary liquid that comes in contact with the tooth. After drinking these harmful beverages, immediately rinse your mouth out with water. Remember that the more frequent you expose your teeth to the acids and sugars the more likely you are to damage the teeth.
With more chances to make food choices without parental supervision, a lot of teens will opt out of vegetable dishes and move towards quick and easy to eat sweet snack foods. They might be trying to grab a bite between activities or not want to take time to cook something nutritious. However, this kind of behavior will promote more tooth decay and decrease overall health. Teaching children how to take the time to make nutritious choices will help them for a lifetime.
Poor Oral Hygiene
The value of good daily brushing and flossing seems difficult for children and teens to embrace. We are now finding that poor oral health is related to systemic problems in the body such as heart disease and diabetes. Dentists and Hygienists know that adolescents need to be better informed about the risks involved with poor oral health.
During puberty hormonal changes can cause an increase in blood flow to the gums. This will lead to redness and swelling and eventually gum disease if not properly taken care of. There also may be some tenderness and bleeding at the irritated areas between teeth. It is essential for teens to keep up with daily flossing around the teeth and use proper brushing techniques to prevent unsightly teeth, gums and bad breath.
Tooth Grinding and TMJ
Jaw clenching or tooth grinding can lead to jaw joint (temporomandibular) soreness and pain. Muscles of the joint become fatigued from being over-worked or parts of the joint can become damaged or degenerated over time. Symptoms include: an uneven or uncomfortable bite, headaches, a locking joint, discomfort while chewing, earaches, or tenderness around the jaw. X-rays, CT scan or MRI can determine what part of the joint is damaged. Treatments may include medications, bite guards, stress management, corrective dental treatment, or surgery. Muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, stretching or massage, eating soft foods and other home remedies may help prevent the need for medical interventions.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. Kids with asthma and allergies tend to breathe out of their mouth and decrease the saliva content. Saliva protects the tooth enamel by washing away the sugars, acids and other food particles. Kids who play lot of sports also mouth breathe and tend to get swollen and irritated gums. Sleeping with your mouth open is also a time when there is decreased saliva flow and more risk for decay. Always rinse your mouth out with water after heavy mouth breathing to help reduce the effects of a dry mouth.
Many teens have braces or a retainer on their teeth. These appliances make tooth brushing and flossing more of a chore than normal. Adolescents with orthodontic appliances tend to get more cavities because they do not follow through with proper oral health maintenance. Even without braces teens tend to place oral care low on their list of daily priorities.
Contact sports can be dangerous for the mouth and could lead to fractured or displacement of the teeth. Wearing a custom fit mouth guard can help prevent tooth damage and future related expenses. Always clean your mouth guard after wearing it and store it in a ventilated container.
Sugarless Gum and Xylitol
Studies have shown that chewing sugar free gum after or between meals can help reduce the incidence of tooth decay. There are now gums that contain the natural sweetener called xylitol. It is a low calorie sugar substitute that can prevent cavity causing germs from destroying the tooth. It can be found in over-the-counter gum and toothpaste. It is also available in granular form and mints.
Bulimia and Anorexia can be very serious health problems. They can also cause erosion of the teeth and an increase in tooth decay. Anyone with an eating disorder should see a doctor immediately and consult with their dentist on how to prevent further damage to the teeth and gums.
Smoking has been found to be the major factor contributing to the most common forms of oral disease. The toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere that blood flows, including your gums. There is evidence that shows cigarette smoking causes periodontal (gum) disease. We also know that smoking causes cancer of the mouth and throat. Please talk to children and teens about not even starting this habit; it is too addictive and damaging to our bodies to take that risk.
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