13 Things Your Pediatric Dentist Wants You to Know About Oral Health in Adolescents

May 17, 2011
If you are an adolescent, between the ages of 10 and 18, you already know that you are living through a special time in your life. Just as you are becoming conscious of appearances, and seek acceptance from your peers, your oral and dental health tends to present you with difficult challenges.

It would give you comfort to know that these issues are special and unique enough to warrant the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry issuing guidelines to Pediatric Dentists on managing dental health of their adolescent patients.

You would already know that oral health and general health are linked together in numerous ways. When you were a baby and young child, your parents and caregivers helped protect your health and wellbeing. But as you enter adolescence, the responsibility for protecting your health becomes your own responsibility. Your pediatric dentist can help, but the major load of the work in safeguarding your smile and maintaining oral health during your adolescence falls upon you.

Here are a few things your pediatric dentist wants you to know:

1.High risk age group - You are at high risk of developing dental caries and gum disease.

2.An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure - There are a lot of things you can do yourself to prevent caries and gum disease. A few minutes a day can help save you thousands of dollars in treatment later. Developing a daily oral care routine of brushing and flossing to remove plaque will help you keep your mouth healthy and fresh; and help maintain a lovely smile.

3.Professional cleaning plays an important role - It is necessary to visit your dentist for a professional dental cleaning session and for a routine check up at least every six months. If you are at a higher risk, your dentist may ask you to visit more frequently.

4.Preventing traumatic injury - Adolescents are a high risk group for traumatic injury because they engage is sports and other activities. There are simple ways to prevent traumatic injury, whatever the activities you engage in. Take time to explore how bicycle and other helmets, mouth guards and other protective equipment can help prevent injury in your chosen field of activity. Again a few hundred dollars can help avoid a lot of pain and save thousands down the line.

5.Your dentists can help you to prevent traumatic injuries to your face and mouth. Tell your dentist about your sport or activity, at what level you play and how often and ask that they recommend or fabricate a properly fitted mouthguard or faceguard for your age category and sport. You should never adjust or alter such custom made protective equipment on your own because it can disrupt the fit. Traumatic injury can still happen even when you are wearing protective gear.

6.Watch what you eat and drink. That applies to both what you do and do not. High volumes of refined carbohydrates (yes, that is chips and burghers and all the sweet stuff in between,) and beverages with acidic content (juices and colas) can increase your risk of dental caries. Sipping sweet or sour stuff all the time is bad for your teeth. Adolescence can make you move away from eating and drinking teeth healthy foods like veggies and dairy. Don’t. Your teeth are still growing and need nutrition to grow healthy and strong.

7.Protect your gums - Often irreversible tissue damage to the gums begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. Adolescence also brings with it a higher prevalence of gingivitis compared to children below that age or adults. The reason is attributed to higher levels of sex hormones during puberty.

8.Many types of gingivitis can affect adolescents - Besides regular gingivitis, there are forms of gingivitis such as puberty gingivitis, hyperplastic gingivitis that is related to orthodontic therapy, drug-related gingivitis and pregnancy gingivitis which overwhelmingly affect those in the adolescent age group. You can avoid these with good personal hygiene and some professional help.

9.It is during adolescence that your permanent teeth begin to appear - Although wisdom teeth may not appear well into adulthood other teeth and jaw related problems become noticeable and may need to be corrected. These can include malpositions in one or more teeth, tooth and jaw size mismatches and craniofacial disfigurements. Although temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw joint disorders can occur at any age, they are more prevalent during adolescence. TMJ disorders need immediate attention in order to avoid long term problems.

10.Congenitally missing teeth - Congenitally missing one or a few permanent teeth can have a negative impact on more than your looks. If you are an adolescent with congenitally missing teeth, remember that your pediatric dentist takes multiple factors into consideration before treatment. These include your age, growth potential, esthetics and surgical needs.

11.Abnormal eruptions – Abnormal tooth eruption patterns in permanent teeth can lead to multiple problems including but not limited to gum defects, bone loss and esthetic concerns. Your dentist can diagnose early and treat such problems, helping you attain a more pleasing smile and healthier teeth. Your dentist may have to extract some teeth, resort to oral surgery and provide or recommend endodontic, orthodontic, periodontal or restorative care, or a combination of these.

12.Disdcolored or stained teeth – Your dentist can recommend and the most effective and least invasive treatment after taking into consideration your dental development needs and oral health. Because you are an adolescent, your dentist will consider possible side effects when contemplating dental bleaching, judiciously decide on usage and carefully supervise the bleaching process.

13.Tobacco can kill – There is no nice way of saying this, tobacco can kill; and before that, mess up your oral and dental health in multiple ways. So try to avoid using tobacco. If you are addicted to tobacco, your dentist can refer you to the necessary educational and counseling services that will help you beat the addiction.

If you take the above points seriously, you are well on your way to maintaining great oral health and a lovely smile. Remember, your pediatric dentist is ready to help you manage the special oral and dental health challenges you face during your adolescence.

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