Dental Care for Adolescents

Practicing good oral hygiene may be the last thing on the mind of an adolescent or teen, but during these years a fist cavity may occur. In general there is an increase in tooth decay at this age.

  • If brushing is a problem, try a battery powered spin brush. They are much more effective in cleaning.

  • Have sealants placed on the twelve-year molars as soon as possible.

  • Tartar or calculus usually forms on the tongue side of the lower front teeth. This results from food residue that is missed when brushing. Some people have a tendency to form calculus. Turn the toothbrush vertically to brush this area more efficiently.

  • If more decay is occurring, a prescription toothpaste with five times the amount of fluoride found in over-the-counter toothpaste may be prescribed. This toothpaste also is often recommended for decalcification during orthodontic treatment.

  • If gums bleed with flossing or the corners of the mouth are sore and cracking, a vitamin supplement may be helpful. A prescription cream may also be prescribed.

  • Bleeding with flossing also means that you need to floss more! Hormonal changes are sometimes responsible for red and swollen gums. Interproximal decay (in between the teeth) may occur for the first time, so flossing is especially important.

  • Ulcers in the mouth during orthodontic treatment are common. They may also occur due to stress, a food sensitivity or trauma. Pierce a vitamin E capsule and squeeze the Vitamin E directly onto the ulcer. The cause may also be a sensitivity to sodium laryl sulfate, a detergent in toothpaste. Check the toothpaste’s ingredients and try switching to one without sodium laryl sulfate.

  • Soft drinks contain large amounts of sugar and acid. Drink through a straw to avoid contact with the upper front teeth and do not swish through the teeth before swallowing. Sucking on lemons will erode (wear away) the enamel. Enamel does not grow back. Diet soft drinks contain more acid than regular.

  • Chewing tobacco should never be used. Its use has a high association with oral cancer.

  • Chewing gum does stimulate the flow of saliva, which helps to clear food residues from the teeth. Chewing gum with sugar will increase decay. Chewing gum with xylitol is preferable to sorbitol as the sweetener. Unlike sorbitol, the bacteria cannot make acid with xylitol. Chewing gum for more than three hours a day may contribute to TMJ problems.

  • Leaning the head on the palm of the hand with a bent elbow and crushing ice with teeth also may contribute to TMJ (jaw) discomfort.

  • Do not share water bottles or cosmetics. The herpes virus, usually seen as a cold sore in teens, is very contagious.

  • Change to a new toothbrush as soon as the bristles are frayed or bent. Allow toothbrushes to dry thoroughly between brushings. Change to a new toothbrush after any illness or a strep throat infection. Streptococcus bacteria can grow on a toothbrush or acrylic orthodontic appliances. Appliances may be soaked in Listerine for 20 minutes for disinfection.

  • Mouthguards work. They should be worn for most sports, particularly if the upper front teeth protrude. Once a tooth is fractured, it is never the same again. A boil and bite mouthguard usually works well for younger patients. We will be happy to check the fit. During orthodontic treatment, most orthodontists will provide a mouthguard that fits over orthodontic appliances. After orthodontic treatment and when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, a custom-made mouthguard may be fabricated.

  • The presence and position of the wisdom teeth should be evaluated around fifteen years of age. When wisdom teeth are extracted at this age, the procedure is less traumatic and healing is more rapid. If these extractions are delayed until later, infection of the gum over the erupting wisdom tooth, a pericoronitis, may occur.

  • Finally – What teeth do you have to brush and floss? Only the ones you want to keep!