February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and this year, your dentist in Midtown East would like to focus on teens. As your child gets older, his or her dental needs change — and you will want to be prepared to ensure their smile stays healthy and strong throughout the trying time of adolescence. From braces and wisdom teeth to mouth jewelry and smoking, let’s get down to what you need to know about your teen’s dental health.
A Good Time for Braces
The teen years are a good time to reposition gapped, crowded, or otherwise misaligned teeth with orthodontics. With school, sports, dating, and hanging out with friends, getting metal braces is not at the top of their list of favorite things to do. But these aren’t Marcia Brady’s braces anymore. While traditional orthodontics (i.e. metal wires and brackets) are still a highly-effective method for straightening a misaligned bite, many image-conscious teens prefer Invisalign. The treatment uses clear, removable aligners to gradually shift the teeth into proper alignment. Its subtle approach can save your teen (and, by extension, you) considerable trauma and anxiety. And guess what? Since they are removable, your teen will be able to eat with freedom.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Like it or not, your teen is probably spending more time than ever outside of the home. You can’t control everything he or she eats, but you can encourage healthy hygiene and nutrition habits. Remind your teen that a balanced, nutritious diet promotes health and wellbeing. If their diet is low in the nutrients the body needs, their mouth may have a more difficult time resisting infection. Sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks have little if any nutritional value and over time they can take a toll on teeth. Appeal to your teenager’s vanity by reminding them that regular brushing, flossing, and twice-annual visits to the dentist prevent cavities in addition to revealing their bright white smile.
Remember Teens’ Temptations
Also, remember that while a lot has changed since you were a teen, somethings (unfortunately) stay the same — like tobacco experimentation in high school. Keep an eye on your child’s habits and do not be afraid to remind them that smoking or tobacco use is never okay.
Another common theme during the teenage years is facial jewelry. If your teen is making a case for a tongue, lip, or other facial piercing, be aware that these accessories can cause real harm to tooth enamel or the soft oral tissues. Your mouth contains both good and harmful bacteria. Infections can occur at the site of the piercing. Mouth jewelry can damage both gums and teeth. The gums may be injured or recede if they are in constant contact with jewelry. This can easily contribute to gum disease and tooth loss. Additionally, the jewelry can cause cracked teeth and damage fillings, crowns, and orthodontics.
Wisdom Teeth Evaluation
The third molars, aka the wisdom teeth, usually emerge between ages 16 and 24. These final four permanent teeth arrive much later than the others. They are located behind one’s molars in the very back of the mouth at the top and bottom of the jaw on each side. Some teen’s wisdom teeth arrive with no problems, and they function the same as other teeth.
Unfortunately, some have impacted wisdom teeth–unable to emerge completely from beneath the gum tissue. When this happens, they must be surgically extracted. The Drs. Boyd have many excellent oral surgeons that they work with. It’s a good idea to have your preteen or teen’s mouth evaluated for the presence of the third molars.
Schedule Your Teen’s Appointment with the Drs. Boyd
One last tip — oftentimes, children visit the pediatric dentist for too long. Your child should begin visiting the general dentist when they have all their permanent teeth. For most children, that occurs at some point during middle school, or between ages 10 and 15. At the Drs. Boyd, we see children as young as two-years old–some we refer to a pediatric specialist until they have all their permanent teeth. Don’t put your teen’s teeth at risk by having them go to the pediatric dentist too long. Celebrate the fact that they’re growing up, and schedule a checkup and cleaning at the Drs. Boyd.
Contact us to book your teen’s visit during National Children’s Dental Health Month!