The teen years can be a wonderful time but even the happiest teenager can be filled with anxiety and fears. For many, their teeth can become a source of worry. Crooked teeth, braces, bad breath, wisdom teeth, and yellow teeth can all cause a teen to feel self-conscious. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to keep your mouth and teeth in optimal condition.
Any bacteria and food particles that sit in your mouth can cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Then, the tooth decay and gum disease will also cause bad breath. Taking special care with oral hygiene will help eliminate your risk of bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Brush twice a day, holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to clean away any build-up under your gums.
If you have a snack at night, be sure to brush your teeth afterward. Leaving food on your teeth all night is almost guaranteeing that you will have bad breath and cavities.
Even if you have a perfect brushing record, forgetting to floss every day can cause bad breath. Think about it this way – you have all those tiny nooks and crannies in between your teeth for food and bacteria to hide. If you left bits of chewed up food on a plate for a few days, it would start to smell pretty bad. It makes sense that the same would happen for bits of food stuck in your mouth!
Bad breath has quite a few other possible causes, including medical conditions, certain medications, smoking, drinking, drugs, and eating disorders. Here are two other common causes.
Dry Mouth - If your mouth is dry it can cause bad breath! Drink plenty of water, especially if you breathe through your mouth.
Food Choices – While some foods directly cause bad breath (think onions, garlic, and coffee), others feed the bacteria in your mouth which causes bad breath. If you eat and drink a lot of sugar and simple carbs, it feeds the bacteria which causes bad breath and tooth decay. Luckily, there are some healthy ways to eat sweets. Don’t forget, if you use gum or mints to freshen your breath, make sure that it is sugar-free.
Yellow or Stained Teeth
Many people want whiter teeth. You may be happy to hear that once all your permanent teeth have fully erupted it is okay to whiten your teeth. We do recommend that teenagers finish their orthodontic treatment and give their teeth time to settle in for a bit before using whitening products.
Interestingly, research shows that teens report tooth sensitivity from whitening more than adults do. It is important to take a break from using tooth whitening products if your teeth begin feeling sensitive.
Crooked Teeth and Braces
You may not like your crooked teeth but are not sure about getting braces. There are all sorts of reasons that you may need braces, and crooked teeth is just one of them. Braces don’t just straighten your teeth they also align your bite which lessens your chance of tooth decay and prematurely wearing down tooth enamel. Depending on your specific situation, braces can make it easier to bite and chew, reduce headaches and tooth grinding, and provide a wide range of other health benefits.
There are certain steps you can take while wearing braces to make the process go faster and keep your teeth and mouth healthy.
Brush and floss every day. It is helpful to brush every time you eat since food has more places to hide. Plackers Orthopick Flossers or Platypus Orthodontic Flossers make flossing much easier if you have braces.
Be careful to avoid foods that can damage your braces. You can read this article for important tips on eating with braces.
Be sure to go to all your orthodontic appointments and dental checkups and cleanings.
Use your retainer as recommended once your braces are off. It would be so sad to go through all the effort of wearing braces just to have your teeth get crooked again!
If you have crooked teeth and decide against braces, be sure to take extra care cleaning any tooth surface that overlaps or touches another tooth. This will lessen your chance of developing cavities in these spots.
Not everyone will need to have their wisdom teeth removed, but for others, it is essential in order to maintain a healthy mouth. If your wisdom teeth do need to be removed, you can feel safe knowing that we have an excellent, experienced team that will do a wonderful job. After about a week your mouth will feel normal and you will never have to worry about them again.
Sports Mouth Guard
It may not seem like a big deal, but sports mouthguards are instrumental in protecting teeth. They soften the impact to your face and mouth when contact is made. A properly fitted mouthguard can prevent broken or knocked-out teeth, a broken or dislocated jaw, trauma to teeth that can cause permanent damage, and protect your jaw, lips, and tongue from injury. You can even wear them with braces. It is worth remembering to wear your mouthguard every single time you play a sport that could injure your mouth!
If you are considering a mouth piercing, be sure that you make an informed decision. Remember that your mouth contains millions of bacteria, so any piercing carries a high risk of infection and swelling. A piercing can make it difficult to talk, eat, swallow, and may cause teeth to chip and break. If you do choose to get a mouth piercing, be sure to have it done by someone who implements excellent sanitation procedures. If they do not, it greatly increases your chance of getting an infection or contracting a blood-borne disease.
You will need to be sure to keep your piercing clean. It may take up to a year for mouth piercings to fully heal and you will need to take extra good care of the area during this time. Even after it is fully healed it is important to regularly remove and clean your piercing.
Smoking, Alcohol, and Illegal Drugs
This is another topic that it is important to understand the impact it may have on your life. In addition to other concerns, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs may have a significant detrimental impact on the health of your teeth and mouth.
Drinking alcoholic beverages increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Since they have a high acid content and dry the mouth, they also cause tooth enamel to break down faster than usual.
You may be aware of meth mouth, which is the term for extreme tooth decay caused by methamphetamine use, but did you know that other drugs are also extremely harmful to your teeth and mouth?
Many drugs, including cannabis, impair your ability to taste and/or smell, and greatly increase your risk of cavities and gum disease, bad breath, dry mouth, tooth grinding, chronic sinusitis, and oral cancer (1).
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating compromise even the healthiest teeth and mouth. They cause tooth decay and erosion, yellow, sensitive teeth, dry mouth, bad breath, bleeding gums, and enlarged salivary glands. If you want a beautiful, healthy smile it is best to avoid these behaviors.
Your Dental Home
Having a dental home is important for dental health, but it also has other benefits. If we are able to monitor the growth and development of a child’s mouth, we will more easily be able to identify and address concerns that emerge in the teen years. When we have already built a relationship of trust and familiarity, it will be easier for teens to listen when they need information or advice about things like bad breath, yellow teeth, smoking, piercings, or eating disorders. Although many of these topics may be difficult for you to think about, they represent just a few of the decisions you may face.
Our primary goal and sincere hope is to provide children and teens with a dental home where they feel safe and comfortable. It is our privilege to offer help and information regarding any topic that impacts dental health. Please feel free to ask us about any of these things that concern you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide your dental care and help you form good habits that will let you enjoy an attractive healthy smile for the rest of your life!
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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1. Shekarchizadeh, Hajar et al. “Oral Health of Drug Abusers: A Review of Health Effects and Care.” Iranian journal of public health vol. 42,9 (2013): 929-40.