Adolescence & Oral Care
Oral Care for Teenagers, Aurora CO
Li’l Teeth offers teens a comfortable and trusting dental home where they can be assured that the doctors and staff understand their unique needs. The doctors are trained to look at facial growth, tooth placement and relationships with the jaw, the need for braces, nutritional counseling, hygiene aids, preventive procedures and behavior modifications. We also feature televisions in the hygiene bay and private treatment suites.
As teens enter into early adulthood they are faced with new risk factors for development of tooth decay. The prevention of cavities in these young adults is very important to the doctors and staff at Li’l Teeth. We hope to motivate teens to think more about their overall health by teaching the importance of good dental hygiene and better diet choices. Following are some of the many behaviors that pose risk for adolescents today and tips on how to decrease their chances of tooth decay.
Soda and Sports Drinks
Teens must spend more time at their desks studying and they tend to sip on sugar laden drinks while they are concentrating. This leads to constant bathing of the tooth structure in sugar and acids for hours at a time. Sugars and acids can erode and permanently damage tooth enamel. Some drinks that have healthy sounding names like “Vitamin” still have about 10 teaspoons of sugar for every 12 ounces. Sports minded adolescents also have an increase in tooth decay from continual sipping of sweetened sports “nourishment” drinks during practices and games. Water is always the best drink for your teeth and body. Some commercial waters even have electrolytes without the sugar for better bodily recovery after exhaustive activities.
If teens must drink soda and other sugar filled beverages they should sip them through a straw. It can help decrease the amount of sugary liquid that comes in contact with the tooth. After drinking these harmful beverages, immediately rinse your mouth out with water. Remember that the more frequent you expose your teeth to the acids and sugars the more likely you are to damage the teeth.
More and more teens are frequenting popular coffee houses for socialization, studying or just the caffeine itself. Caffeine is an addictive substance and not a good idea for our children. But another problem with these drinks and teeth is that a lot of kids get coffee or tea with large amounts of added sugar. Try to avoid these caffeinated sugar drinks all together for a healthier body and mind.
With more chances to make food choices without parental supervision, a lot of teens will opt out of vegetable dishes and move towards quick and easy to eat sweet snack foods. They might be trying to grab a bite between activities or not want to take time to cook something nutritious. However, this kind of behavior will promote more tooth decay and decrease overall health. Teaching children how to take the time to make nutritious choices will help them for a lifetime. Choose water, fruit, raw vegetables, beef jerky, nuts, and other natural foods as snacks instead of chips, candy and soda.
Poor Oral Hygiene
The value of good daily brushing and flossing seems difficult for children and teens to embrace. We are now finding that poor oral health is related to systemic problems in the body such as heart disease and diabetes. Dentists know that adolescents need to be better informed about the risks involved with poor oral health. Here at Li’l Teeth we are constantly trying to relay the message of good health to all of our patients. Turn on some music while brushing your teeth and time yourself for the length of one whole song. Make sure to do this for a minimum of two times a day and never skip night time brushing. Leaving food and plaque on your teeth at night is asking for a nightmare to happen.
During puberty hormonal changes can cause an increase in blood flow to the gums. This will lead to redness and swelling and eventually gum disease if not properly taken care of. There also may be some tenderness and bleeding at the irritated areas between teeth. It is essential for teens to keep up with daily flossing around the teeth and use proper brushing techniques to prevent unsightly teeth, gums and bad breath. Doctors at Li’l Teeth can prescribe a dental regimen that will help reduce the effects of hormonal imbalance on the teeth and gums.
Tooth Grinding and TMJ
Jaw clenching or tooth grinding can lead to jaw joint (temporomandibular) soreness and pain. Muscles of the joint become fatigued from being over-worked or parts of the joint can become damaged or degenerated over time. Symptoms include: an uneven or uncomfortable bite, headaches, a locking joint, discomfort while chewing, earaches, or tenderness around the jaw. X-rays, CT scan or MRI can determine what part of the joint is damaged. Treatments may include medications, bite guards, stress management, corrective dental treatment, or surgery. Muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, stretching or massage, eating soft foods and other home remedies may help prevent the need for medical interventions.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. Kids with asthma and allergies tend to breathe out of their mouth and decrease the saliva content. Saliva protects the tooth enamel by washing away the sugars, acids and other food particles. Kids who play lot of sports also mouth breath and tend to get swollen and irritated gums. Sleeping with your mouth open is also a time when there is decreased saliva flow and more risk for decay. Always rinse your mouth out with water after heavy mouth breathing to help reduce the effects of a dry mouth.
Many teens have braces or a retainer on their teeth. These appliances make tooth brushing and flossing more of a chore than normal. Adolescents with orthodontic appliances tend to get more cavities because they do not follow through with proper oral health maintenance. Even without braces teens tend to place oral care low on their list of daily priorities. Everyone at Li’l Teeth knows the importance of giving extensive and motivational oral hygiene instruction to kids with braces at each appointment.
Wisdom teeth usually start coming in during the ages of 16-21. We will take a panoramic x-ray about this age to see if the wisdom teeth are growing straight or impacted (growing sideways.) Considering the removal of these teeth; our dentists will check to see if there is enough room in the jaw, look for a cyst formation around the tooth, and determine if there could be damage to the adjacent tooth or jaw bone. Most of the time wisdom teeth are removed by the oral surgeon while you are asleep.
Bleaching of the teeth has become a favorite cosmetically enhancing activity of teens. We do NOT recommend tooth whitening until all permanent teeth are in and straightened by orthodontic appliances. Starting too early can lead to permanent teeth with uneven coloration depending on the timing of application and how much product was used. Please consult with a dentist before buying over the counter whitening products. Whitening is not for everyone and could produce unwanted results. Also be cautious of making your teeth “too” white, they will end up with an undesirable chalky appearance.
With all of the social pressures on this age group there is wonder and talk about cosmetic procedures that make your teeth look “perfect.” There are ways to fill in large gaps between teeth or increase the size of a misshapen tooth along with many other possibilities in the hands of your dentist. But these procedures can be costly and need to be well thought out and planned in advance. Consultation with our doctors is the best way to start finding out your options.
Contact sports can be dangerous for the mouth and could lead to fractured or displacement of the teeth. Wearing a custom fit mouth guard can help prevent tooth damage and future related expenses. We are able to make custom mouth guards at Li’l Teeth and would be happy to show you the materials and colors available. Always clean your mouth guard after wearing it and store it in a ventilated container.
Placement of a thin coating of white filling material in the grooves of the back teeth can help prevent sticky substances from adhering to the tooth. This will help teens to decrease their chances of decay. Sealant is easily “painted” on the chewing surfaces and leaves a smoother area where food cannot stick. It does not flow between the teeth or on the inside or outside surfaces so brushing and flossing are still essential. Our dentists may suggest sealants for teens but a thorough examination with x-rays is needed.
Sugarless Gum and Xylitol
Studies have shown that chewing sugar free gum after or between meals can help reduce the incidence of tooth decay. There are now gums that contain the natural sweetener called xylitol. It is a low calorie sugar substitute that can prevent cavity causing germs from destroying the tooth. It can be found in over-the-counter gum and toothpaste. It is also available in granular form and mints. Li’l Teeth can order products made with xylitol that specifically benefit teen patients.
Bulimia and Anorexia can be very serious health problems. They can also cause erosion of the teeth and an increase in tooth decay. Anyone with an eating disorder should see a doctor immediately and consult with their dentist on how to prevent further damage to the teeth and gums.
Smoking has been found to be the major factor contributing to the most common forms of oral disease. The toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere that blood flows, including your gums. There is evidence that shows cigarette smoking causes periodontal (gum) disease. We also know that smoking causes cancer of the mouth and throat. Please talk to children and teens about not even starting this habit; it is too addictive and damaging to our bodies to take that risk.
We do not recommend oral piercings or other mouth jewelry. It can be very dangerous. The side effects include infection, swollen tongue that can close off your airway, nerve damage, pain, uncontrolled bleeding, fractured teeth, injury to gum tissue and choking on a loose stud or barbell. We have personally seen cracked teeth that have needed crowns and root canals, permanent nerve damage to the tongue and severe loss of gum tissue around a tooth that eventually became so sensitive it needed a root canal.