The best way for teens to enjoy a nice smile and healthy teeth is to continue the good oral habits started early in childhood. Whether or not you wear braces or other orthodontic treatment, it is important to:
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque. Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and below your gumline. If plaque is not removed daily, it can harden into tartar: an unsightly, hard yellow build-up.
- Limit sugary or starchy foods and drinks, especially sticky snacks.
- Visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings and check-ups.
In addition to helping teeth last a lifetime, a clean mouth simply makes you feel good. It also gives you fresher breath and a nicer looking smile.
What special dental issues should a teenager know about?
Dental problems can and do occur during the teen years. Becoming better informed about issues that affect oral health can make it easier to make the best decisions.
- Orthodontics – Many pre-teens and teens undergo braces to fix crowded or crooked teeth and poor jaw alignment. Crowded teeth can make cleaning more difficult. An orthodontic evaluation will determine if you need braces, and what type of treatment is right for you. If you wear braces, extra care must be taken to properly clean your teeth.
- Mouth Guards – If you play sports, mouth guards are critical to protecting your smile. These devices typically cover the upper teeth, and are designed to protect against broken teeth, cut lips and other damage to your mouth. If you wear braces or other fixed dental appliances on your lower jaw, such as a bridge, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.
- Nutrition – Nutrition plays a key role in your dental health. The sugars and starches in many snack foods and drinks support the formation of plaque, which destroys tooth enamel. It is important to limit the number of snacks you eat and drink because each time you consume foods and drinks that contain sugars or starches, your teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more. Eating a well-balanced diet from the five food groups can make a big difference in your dental health. Choose nutritious snack foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yoghurt or fruit, and drink plenty of water.
- Smoking – The number one rule is: if you do not smoke, do not start! Smoking increases your risk of developing oral cancer and gum disease, and contributes to many other health problems. It can also stain your teeth and contribute to bad breath. If you do smoke, talk to your dentist and doctor about options for quitting. Make sure you also tell them about any mouth problems you may be experiencing.
- Oral Piercing – Despite its popularity, oral piercing can cause complications such as infections, uncontrollable bleeding and nerve damage. You can also choke on studs, barbells, or hoops that come loose. Metal jewellery is also capable of chipping or cracking teeth and damaging your gums. If you are considering oral piercing, talk to your dental professional so he or she can help you make the safest choices.
- Eating Disorders – Both bulimia (binge-eating and vomiting) and anorexia (an undue fear of gaining weight often resulting in vomiting) are serious disorders, and also directly affect the appearance of teeth by eroding the tooth enamel. While a dental professional can help to manage the oral effects, he or she cannot treat the actual eating disorder. Eating disorders are potentially life-threatening conditions, requiring professional help. Should you have an eating disorder, or think you might, talk to your doctor.
How can I help make my teeth look whiter?
Thorough cleanings by a dental professional will remove most external staining caused by food and tobacco. The use of whitening toothpaste can also help remove these surface stains between dental visits. If stains have been present for years, you may need to have your teeth professionally whitened to remove these more stubborn external stains.
Internal stains can be bleached, bonded or capped (crowned). While each of these methods is safe and effective, your dentist will recommend which treatment is appropriate for you depending on the state of your teeth and the results that you wish to achieve.