From acne to growth spurts, teenagers have to deal with a lot of changes in their bodies. As they grow, they are also likely to see changes in their oral health. Taking care of the teeth and gums is an essential part of maintaining a teenager’s overall health.
Some dental concerns are more common among teenagers than they are in other age groups. Whether you’re a parent of teenagers or a teenager yourself, read on to learn more about what you can expect during the teen years when it comes to oral health and what you can do to keep you (or your child’s) mouth healthy.
The wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to erupt. They’re called wisdom teeth because people usually don’t get them until their late teen years or even their early 20s.
There can be up to four wisdom teeth, one on each side of both the top and bottom rows of teeth. Not everyone has all four teeth. Some people have just two or three and some people don’t have any at all.
While the wisdom teeth can occasionally erupt into the mouth and come in without any issues, they’re often too big for the mouth. Wisdom teeth often end up impacted, which means that there isn’t enough room in the mouth for them to erupt properly. Impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on the surrounding teeth or get stuck in the gums, creating an ideal place for food and bacteria to get stuck.
If a dentist believes that a teen is likely to end up with impacted wisdom teeth, they are likely to recommend wisdom teeth removal. Removing wisdom teeth involves a surgical procedure when the teeth haven’t fully erupted. If the teeth have erupted, the process of removing them is usually much simpler.
A teen’s dentist is likely to bring up the subject of wisdom teeth around the time they are 16 or 17 years old. The dentist may take images of the mouth to see how the wisdom teeth are doing and will recommend extraction or leaving them alone based on what they see.
Braces and Orthodontics
The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends that children see an orthodontist for an evaluation around the age of seven. For many kids and teens, braces are a rite of passage, a treatment that helps to straighten their teeth and improve their bites. While traditional braces are very visible on the teeth and often cause self-consciousness, newer methods of correcting bite and alignment problems are practically invisible and much more convenient.
Invisalign is one great option teens have if they want to correct a misaligned bite or otherwise straighten their teeth. Invisalign uses clear plastic aligners that fit over the top and bottom rows of the teeth. The aligners gently reposition the teeth over the course of several months. Every couple of weeks, the patient switches to a new set of aligners to continue their treatment.
Along with being clear and difficult to see on the teeth, Invisalign offers teens a few benefits compared to regular braces. Usually, there are fewer dental visits required with Invisalign than there are with traditional braces. Teens are busy people, and it can be pretty challenging to schedule orthodontist appointments every few weeks.
Another benefit of Invisalign for teens is that there aren’t any food restrictions while the treatment is in progress. The aligners are removed for eating and drinking, so teens are free to enjoy popcorn, hard candy and all of the other foods that are usually off-limits to people with braces.
Speaking of hard candy and popcorn, the typical teenage diet often leaves a lot to be desired. Drinking soft drinks and eating candy and starchy snacks can put teenagers at an increased risk of developing cavities. It’s important for teens to keep up or start an oral care routine at home that includes brushing at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day. Teens should also see their dentist for regular teeth cleanings and exams.
Problems With Piercings
Part of being a teenager is finding a way to express yourself. Some teens choose to express themselves by piercing various parts of their bodies, such as the inside of their mouth. Oral piercings on the tongue or lips can cause some problems and should be monitored closely. If a piercing gets infected, it can be a serious cause for concern.
The piercing itself can cause damage to the teeth or can irritate the gums. Teens with piercings should be extra cautious when it comes to taking care of their mouths and the piercings themselves. If you have your tongue or another part of your mouth pierced, you might want to see your dentist more often for check-ups and cleanings.
Sports-Related Mouth Injuries
Teens who play sports run the risk of mouth injuries. Mouth injuries can occur when a teen gets hit with a ball or if they fall while running or jumping. Wearing a mouth guard during sports can help to protect the teeth and gums from damage. If an injury affecting the mouth does occur, the teen should see a dentist right away.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami, FL area. He also performs wisdom teeth removal, offers Invisalign, and performs teeth cleanings. If you have any concerns about you or your teen’s oral health, call 305-547-8687 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gallardo today.