It seems like everyone wants beautiful teeth these days. Braces and whitening products have become the norm for teenagers, but it may seem like brushing, flossing, whitening, and wearing braces are the only way to impact your teeth, and the rest is up to chance and genetics. That actually isn’t true at all! There are 5 important steps teens, and teen athletes can take to have a beautiful healthy smile.
First things first – you can’t keep teeth healthy after they’ve been badly chipped or knocked out! If you play sports, it is incredibly important for you to wear a sports mouthguard when you practice or play. Nearly every sport can cause mouth injuries, so don’t think that it’s only important to wear a mouthguard for high impact sports like football, hockey, and MMA. Even if it is not something worn by everyone on your team or in your class, a mouthguard is still worth seriously considering. Custom-made mouthguards provide the best protection because they are designed specifically for your teeth. Boil and bite mouthguards are another great option.
If you wear braces, a mouthguard becomes even more important. When you get hit in the mouth, braces will do even more damage to your lips and cheeks than your teeth alone could. You also run the risk of damaging your braces, which can lengthen your treatment time. Luckily, a good sports mouthguard will greatly reduce your chance of serious injury to your teeth and mouth!
It is important to take care of your mouthguard. Keep it clean and dry when you aren’t wearing it. Better yet – keep it in its case when not in your mouth. Don’t forget to clean it regularly and replace it when it gets worn out or damaged.
2. Sports Drinks and Soda
What you drink does impact your mouth. Sports drinks may replenish electrolytes, but they also have a ton of acid and sugars which destroy your teeth. If you have a few sips while wearing your mouthguard, your teeth are exposed to the acids and sugar for even longer. If you do use sports drinks, try to always rinse your mouth with a swish of water afterward.
Soda, diet or regular, has just as much harmful acid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any health benefits to compensate.
Both sports drinks and soda wear away at your enamel, increasing your chance of developing cavities and gum disease. While those consequences seem bad enough, don’t forget that cavities and gum disease also cause bad breath. If you wear braces, these drinks may cause you to develop white spots on your teeth that will be visible when the braces come off.
Fortunately, water does an excellent job of rehydrating you, and is beneficial for your teeth! One tip to keep yourself hydrated is to tank up throughout the 24 hours before you will be exercising. You are far less likely to become severely dehydrated if you start off well hydrated and this doesn’t happen just by drinking water in the 20 minutes or so before you begin exercising. For best results, it should be a process you work at for the entire day leading up to a practice or game.
If you want to learn more about why various beverages damage your teeth and get tips for minimizing damage when you do drink them, you can read all about acidic drinks harming your teeth here.
3. Food Choices
Just as hydrating impacts your performance, so do the foods you eat throughout the day. Food also impacts the health of your teeth and mouth. Some foods are beneficial, keeping your mouth healthy and your body at peak performance. Others make you sluggish, don’t support the development of strength and speed, and cause cavities, inflamed gums that lead to gum disease, bad breath, and white spots after braces.
One of the biggest culprits that cause negative effects is processed sugar.
Unfortunately, even if you avoid sweets, there are many hidden sources of processed sugar in much of the food we eat.
While best avoided, you don’t have to entirely eliminate sweets or your favorite junk foods. There are some healthy ways to eat sweets. It is helpful to sip water to rinse your mouth after eating the sweets or to munch on crunchy fruits and vegetables. (Unless you are wearing braces! Then please, cut them into bite-sized pieces first!)
We have also created a helpful guide to healthier options for lunch and snacks. We even include choices from places like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Check it out if you want some ideas.
4. Oral Hygiene
Of course, being your dentist, we are going to include the importance of oral hygiene. This may seem like something you’ve heard so much that it’s lost its impact, but we can’t stress enough that taking care of your teeth every day is essential for keeping your mouth healthy and your breath fresh. If you just do these three things you will greatly improve your chances of keeping your teeth and gums healthy and your breath smelling good.
Brush thoroughly twice a day. Electric toothbrushes are a great tool because they practically take care of the work for you. Be sure to use fluoride and/or xylitol to provide essential minerals to keep your teeth strong. Don’t forget to brush your tongue to get rid of all the bad breath causing bacteria that thrive on it.
Floss every day. Brushing twice a day will take care of most of the food particles, plaque, and harmful bacteria, but there are also plenty of places between your teeth for those things to hide. Old food particles and bacteria will cause bad breath, cavities, and gum disease – so be sure to use floss to get rid of them every day! If you wear braces, it is equally important to clean all the place food can hide around the brackets and appliances.
Get regular cleanings and checkups. This helps us clean any areas you missed and keep an eye on potential problems before they get worse. Cleanings also help your teeth look white and shiny!
If you want to use whitening products, it is usually safe for teens. Just be sure to take a break if your teeth start feeling more sensitive.
5. Avoid Smoking, Vaping and Drinking
While these may seem like choices that don’t impact the health of your mouth, they actually play a major role. Tobacco products and smoking can cause stained teeth, bad breath, canker sores, and gum disease. Vaping still exposes you to nicotine, along with other toxic chemicals, so it causes halitosis (chronic bad breath) and inflamed and tender gums which can lead to receding gums and loss of teeth. Drinking causes tooth decay and gum disease. If you care about having healthy, white teeth and good breath, it is better to avoid these things.
Fortunately for you, it doesn’t take too much effort to keep your teeth healthy and attractive. We are also here to help. If you have any questions or worries about your mouth, teeth, or breath, we are glad to take the time to discuss them with you. We are happy to help you create patterns that let you enjoy your smile and look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
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