With braces, wisdom teeth, and hormones to worry about, adolescence can be a roller coaster time for teeth. There are a number of factors that make adolescence a precarious time for teeth, but there are simple solutions to these problems as well.
Hormones Wreaking Havok
Hormonal changes during adolescence can cause gums to be tender, red, and swollen. This may cause your teenager to avoid brushing and flossing as they should, but this is the worst thing they could do. Continuing to brush and floss regularly will help to alleviate the problem and failure to do so will only make it worse. If their gums bleed during flossing, that means they need to do it more often. Teenagers are more prone to tooth decay than younger children are, so it’s especially important for them to maintain a healthy dental routine during these years.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a disorder of the muscles of the jaw that can sometimes crop up during adolescence. It is characterized by a stiffness and/or clicking sound in the jaw, along with pain, headaches, difficulty chewing, and trouble opening the mouth. It can be caused by injury to the jaw, stress, and grinding the teeth, among other things.
In order to help avoid this problem teenagers should:
- Not chew gum for more than 3 hours a day.
- Wear a mouth guard while playing sports to protect the area from injury.
- Use a mouth guard at night if they have a problem with grinding their teeth.
- Avoid putting prolonged stress on the jaw, like resting their chin in their hand for long periods of time (no matter how boring class gets!).
Viruses and Bugs
Kissing, sharing drinks, and swapping cosmetics are all part of being a kid, but there are some things to avoid to promote healthier teeth. Sharing makeup can spread germs from person to person that can lead to infection in the eyes, skin, and mouth. Canker sores that are caused by the herpes virus are easily spread from person to person and makeup can be a great vehicle for this. Sharing water bottles and drinks should be avoided for this same reason. Teenagers who have a cold sore or canker sore should be especially careful to avoid spreading it to others, even if this means they have to take a break from kissing.
Surviving Orthodontic Appliances
Wearing braces, a retainer, or any other orthodontic appliances is good for the teeth in the long run, but it can give germs a spot to grow and cause damage. Special care should be taken to thoroughly brush and floss, even if the appliances make it more difficult. Retainers that can be removed need to be cleaned well with an antiseptic, like Listerine. Holding the toothbrush vertical while brushing the backs of the teeth can increase its effectiveness.
Wisdom Teeth & Molars
Along with these daily reminders, there are a couple of other things that parents of teenagers need to be aware of. Wisdom teeth begin making an appearance during adolescence, and the sooner they’re taken care of, the less of a chance they have to cause damage. Wisdom teeth should be x-rayed and evaluated by age 15 at the latest. When the third molars come in around age 12, parents should take their kids in to have sealant put on them to avoid cavities.