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Patient Education - Teenagers

Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. That's why it's so important to take care of it. Cavities aren't just for little kids you can get them at any age. When you consume sugary foods, soda, juice or energy drinks, you put yourself at risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Be smart. Always brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day.

The bottom line for smiles that are healthy on the inside and out:

  • Always brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes
  • Floss between your teeth daily
  • Avoid sugary and starchy snacks
  • Wear a mouthguard when you're active
  • Don't smoke
  • Don't pierce your lips or any part of your mouth
  • See your dentist. Regular dental visits will help set you up to be Mouth Healthy for Life

Mouthguards

Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly lost one or two of your front teeth. Smiling, talking, eating everything would suddenly be affected.

Mouthguards, also called mouth protectors, help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw. They typically cover the upper teeth and are a great way to protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining. Knowing how to prevent injuries like these is especially important if you participate in organized sports or other recreational activities.

When it comes to protecting your mouth, a mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment from an early age. In fact, studies show that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they're not wearing a mouthguard. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for the mouth, you can experience a dental injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating.

There are three types of mouthguards:

  • Custom-fitted - These are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive than the other versions, but because they are customized, usually offer the best fit.
  • Stock - These are inexpensive and come pre-formed, ready to wear. Unfortunately, they often don't fit very well. They can be bulky and can make breathing and talking difficult.
  • Boil and bite - These mouth protectors can be bought at many sporting goods stores and drugstores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. They are first softened in water (boiled), then inserted and allowed to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

The best mouthguard is one that has been custom made for your mouth by your dentist. However, if you can't afford a custom-fitted mouthguard, you should still wear a stock mouthguard or a boil-and-bite mouthguard from the drugstore. If you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.

A properly fitted mouthguard may be especially important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouthguard also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries.

Talk to your dentist or orthodontist about selecting a mouthguard that will provide the best protection. Although mouthguards typically only cover the upper teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouthguard on the lower teeth if you have braces on these teeth too.

If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, do not wear it during any contact sports.

Some tips for caring for your mouthguard:

  • rinse before and after each use or brush with a toothbrush and toothpaste
  • occasionally clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water and rinse thoroughly
  • transport the mouthguard in a sturdy container that has vents
  • never leave the mouthguard in the sun or in hot water
  • check for wear and tear to see if it needs replacing

Healthy Habits

  • Brushing and Flossing Want to avoid cavities? Brushing twice a day with toothpaste, flossing once a day, and limiting sugary snacks and beverages is how you do it. It's simple but sometimes life gets busy and you might be tempted to skip it. Don't. A bright smile makes you feel good inside and out. Make sure to see your dentist regularly, too.

Some things to protect your smile:

  • Sealants - Dental sealants are a type of special plastic coating that act as a barrier, protecting cavity-prone areas. They are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth and are sometimes used to cover deep pits and grooves in other teeth. Sealing a tooth is fast and easy. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing but sometimes a reapplication is needed. Talk to your dentist about sealants. Remember: Just because you have sealants doesn't mean you don't have to brush and floss every day. Sealants are added protection against decay!
  • Mouthguards - If you play a sport or are active in things like skateboarding or snowboarding, it's a good idea to wear a mouthguard. It may feel funny at first, but mouthguards are the best thing you can do to protect your teeth from getting broken or knocked out. They cushion blows that would otherwise cause injuries to the lips and face and sometimes even jaw fractures. There are different kinds of mouthguards; ask your dentist which one is right for you.

Braces

If you have a bad bite or your teeth are crooked or out of alignment, you may benefit from braces. Braces can help improve your smile and make your teeth straighter. They can also improve your dental health and overall health because untreated orthodontic problems can make it hard to bite and chew and can interfere with eating. If you have a bad bite, you may also be prone to cavitiesor gum disease because it may be hard to clean your teeth. Braces come in many different styles, including tooth-colored plastic braces or traditional metal braces that come in a variety of colors. Removable clear retainers can sometimes be used. Talk to your dentist to see what the best choice is for you.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, get their name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood, the time of life when you gain maturity or wisdom. The majority of people have most of their permanent teeth by age 13. Your wisdom teeth should come into your mouth between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes they do not have enough room to come in normally or are in the wrong position to come straight up. When that happens, your dentist may refer to them as impacted and they may have to be removed.

Not everyone's teeth develop on the same schedule. That's why it's important to see your dentist regularly so he or she can monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth. Every patient is unique, but in general, wisdom teeth may need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as:

  • pain
  • infection
  • cysts
  • tumors
  • damage to adjacent teeth
  • gum disease
  • tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)

Your dentist or specialist may also recommend removing your wisdom teeth to prevent problems or for others reasons, such as when removal is part of part of getting braces, treating gums or other dental procedures.

Mouth Jewellery

Oral piercings or tongue splitting may look cool, but they can be dangerous to your health. That's because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection and swelling often occur with mouth piercings. For instance, your mouth and tongue could swell so much that you close off your airway or you could possibly choke if part of the Jewellery breaks off in your mouth. In some cases, you could crack a tooth if you bite down too hard on the piercing and repeated clicking of the Jewellery against teeth can also cause damage. An infected oral piercing can also lead to more serious systemic infections, including hepatitis or endocarditis.

Meth Mouth

Meth Mouth, a term for the damage caused by the use of the illegal and highly addictive drug methamphetamine, is one of many devastating effects this drug can have on users oral health. Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that can cause shortness of breath, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, permanent brain damage and rampant tooth decay. Some users describe their teeth as "blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling or falling apart." Often, the teeth cannot be salvaged and must be removed.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders arise from a variety of complex physical, emotional and social issues. They can also be devastating to your oral health. More than 10 million Americans are affected by serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. These eating disorders can also affect a person's oral health. Without the proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell and individuals may experience chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can affect teeth too. That's because when strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth, the tooth's enamel can be lost to the point that the teeth change in color, shape and length. The edges of teeth become thin and break off easily. If you suffer from an eating disorder, it's important to seek counseling and talk to your health care provider.

Nutrition

Eating healthy foods helps keep your teeth and body healthy. Don't eat or drink too many sweets. If you have something sweet, try to eat or drink it with a meal to limit the exposure time to your teeth.

What to Eat:

According to MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced diet should include:

  • Fruits and vegetables - Combined these should be half of what you eat every day.
  • Grains - Make sure at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Dairy - Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
  • Lean proteins - Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Try and vary your protein choices to include eggs, beans, peas and legumes, too. Eat at least 8 oz. of seafood a week.

Snacking tips:

  • Snacking is hard to resist but you can do your mouth a favor by watching the amount of soda, juice or other sweetened beverages you drink.
  • If you want a snack, try and choose something like fruit, low-fat cheese, yogurt or raw vegetables.
  • If you chew gum, make sure it's sugarless. Certain sugarless gums have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance for helping prevent cavities by strengthening teeth. Look for the ADA Seal on the package.

If you have braces: Good oral hygiene is especially important for people wearing braces. Your dentist may recommend avoiding certain foods that could interfere with braces or accidentally bend the wires. These foods may include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods like chewing gum, caramel or other chewy candy.