To My Teenage Patients

A bright smile & fresh breath – that’s what a healthy mouth means. It also means you can talk and laugh with confidence.

Here are facts, ideas and tips on keeping a healthy smile in your teenage years.

What Teens Need To Know About Their Dental Health

FACT 1: You have not outgrown tooth decay. In fact, dental decay may be more of a problem for you during the teen years than it ever has been before.

FACT 2: Gum disease (gingivitis) is a risk to your dental health. It is also a threat to your appearance. Gum disease causes red and swollen gums, bleeding gums and bad breath.

FACT 3: You will have all your permanent teeth with the possible exception of your wisdom teeth (third molars). During these growing years, your face and jaws will undergo many changes. You can be healthy and attractive through these changes by taking good care of your teeth and visiting your pediatric dentist.

How You Can Keep a Healthy Smile
It is up to you! What you do and do not do is important.

Here is a checklist for a healthy smile:

Eat intelligently! Life is going to be hectic now. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk foods when you eat on the run.

Snack smartly. Be careful of snack foods containing sugar; they can cause damage to the teeth and gums.

Practice good prevention at least twice a day. Brush effectively using a fluoridated toothpaste. Floss to prevent gum disease and tooth decay on the sides of the teeth.

Keep up with your dental checkups. Tooth cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants are important preventive services for you.

Do not smoke or chew tobacco! The warnings you hear and read about are true. Besides lung and heart problems, tobacco can cause oral cancer. Of all cancers, 2.4 percent occur in the mouth and tobacco use has been estimated to account for over 90 percent of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx.* If you are using tobacco and notice any changes in your mouth, contact your doctor immediately.

Wear a mouth guard for any sport or activity in which your mouth can be hit.

Buckle up in the car. A seat belt and shoulder harness can keep your face from striking the steering wheel, the dashboard or windshield during minor accidents.

Quiz on Eating Disorders

You (or a friend) may have an eating disorder if you answer YES to the following questions:

  1. Do you weigh yourself more than once a day?
  2. Are you obsessed with being very thin, even while you are below a normal weight?
  3. Do you have a fear of not being able to stop eating?
  4. Do you vomit after a meal – or have the urge to do so?
  5. (For females only) Have you missed three consecutive menstrual periods?

All eating disorders have health risks. The worst cases can lead to death. Eating disorders associated with vomiting can damage the teeth because of stomach acid. If you suspect you have an eating disorder, please see your doctor as soon as possible.

Tips For Smart Snacking

  1. Be careful of between-meal snacks.
  2. Clear the snack from the teeth as soon as possible. Even a simple swish and rinse with water will help.
  3. Do not let snacks take the place of nutritionally balanced meals.

How Your Pediatric Dentist Can Help

There are many things a pediatric dentist can do to help assure your oral health for a lifetime. Preventive dentistry techniques such as tooth cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatments are just as important as ever for you. Tips on flossing and brushing, and ideas on snacking and choosing a healthy diet, are available to you from your pediatric dentist and staff as well.

Your pediatric dentist will be glad to talk to you about how your teeth look. If you feel your teeth are too dark, there are techniques now to whiten them. If you have broken teeth, teeth with defects or spaces between your teeth, there are a number of esthetic dentistry techniques to help you look better.

If you are concerned about your bite, crooked teeth or the appearance of your smile, your pediatric dentist can give you advice about correcting such problems.

During your teen years, your wisdom teeth (third molars) will be developing. Although some third molars come into the mouth normally, others need to be removed because of poor position and lack of space. Your pediatric dentist will make sure the proper treatment is prescribed at the right time.

Dentistry for adolescents and teens is a fundamental part of the advanced training of the pediatric dentist. Your dental health and appearance are as important to you and your pediatric dentist. Let us keep your smile sparkling and healthy.

Your pediatric dentist and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry hope this brochure is useful to you. Please share this information with a family member or friend.

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America. A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, 2000.

Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry