It is not unusual to find a teen who puts stringent measures in place to keep his or her pearly whites in top shape. It is also not unusual to find a teen who cares less about his or her oral health. Habits that teens create now follow them into adulthood and these habits become very difficult to change when they grow older. Adolescents transition from childhood to adulthood not just physically but emotionally hence patience is required when it comes to helping them with their oral health. If you find it challenging getting your teen to keep the mouth clean at all times, you should begin by leading by example and also explaining the dire consequences of bad oral hygiene since teens become aware of their self-image and appearance at this stage of life. The following are expert tips I put together for teen dental care at home
Brushing and flossing are often not too high on a teenager’s priority list of life essentials in comparison to texting and snapchatting. This is because they do not see the consequences of not brushing twice daily and flossing at least once daily. Several teens use less than a minute to brush their teeth. Brushing should be done with a soft/medium bristled brush and fluoride-containing toothpaste first thing in the morning when they wake up and the last thing they do before they sleep at night. Brushing should take an average of 2-3 minutes using the circular motion technique. Since teenagers are most often attached to their smartphones, they can set timers on their smartphones when brushing. In the absence of a smartphone, they can play their favorite song (which usually lasts about 2-3 minutes) whilst brushing to make it fun.
Flossing should also be done at least once daily to remove the debris and bacteria in between the teeth where the toothbrush is cannot reach. Dental floss is a thin filamentous material that helps to remove the debris and bacteria interdentally. It is available as the regular floss (long thread in a box), floss pick (comes on a little handle), and water floss. Teens undergoing orthodontic treatment(braces) will need to pay more attention to brushing and flossing since the appliances placed in their mouths inadvertently serve as niduses for plaque accumulation. Plaque refers to the sticky yellow/white soft film of germs that form around the teeth when brushing and flossing is inadequate and this is the major cause of tooth decay, gum disease and periodontal disease.
The use of mouthwashes is an adjunct to tooth brushing. Some teens replace the brushing of teeth with the use of mouthwashes due to time constraints and in some cases, due to ignorance. Parents should teach their teens to use mouthwash only after a session of brushing is completed. The main use of a mouth wash is to give that extra fresh breath and also reduce the bacterial load in the mouth. There are so many mouthwashes on the market with some containing fluoride and others containing alcohol. Before embarking on the use of a mouth wash, speak to your dentist about the appropriate mouthwash to use, the duration, whether the mouthwash has to be diluted or not, and the correct amount to use.
Diet becomes very important during this period for your teens because they prefer sugary and processed meals to wholesome meals. A high intake of sugar does not only increase your teenager’s chances of early-onset diabetes but it also increases your teenager’s risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay on permanent teeth has dire implications on a teen’s self-esteem and it also makes them take time off school due to the associating dental pain. Time taken off school reflects in their academic performance in the long run and this is an essential point to instill in your teens when they refuse to take good care of their teeth. Another major point worth emphasizing when it comes to diet is the chewing of ice. This habit has to be curbed since it causes fractures to their permanent set of teeth resulting in tooth sensitivity and pain.
Mouthguards become important for your teen especially if they engage in contact sports at school or home. Mouthguards are plastic coverings worn over the teeth to help cushion a blow to the face minimizing the risk of fractured teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, and jaw during contact sports. These are provided for by the dentist after careful assessment of your teenager’s teeth. Teenagers should always have helmets on when riding bicycles or motors since a collision or a fall could also result in irreversible damage to the erupting permanent teeth.
In conclusion, if the above tips are adhered to, you will observe a boost in your teen’s confidence because healthy teeth provide healthy smiles.
AUTHOR: DR MICHAEL AWUA-MENSAH