Proper dental health and oral hygiene are important no matter what your age is. But for adolescents (defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics as anyone between the ages of 10 and 24,) dental health is especially important.
Why Adolescent Dental Health Is So Important
One reason that adolescent dental health is so important is that adolescence presents a number of specific challenges when it comes to oral hygiene. Like it is for people of all ages, dental care is important during the adolescent years for routine maintenance, such as preventing and managing cavities, and preventing and treating sports injuries.
However, adolescents, particularly during their teenage years, are more likely to have specific issues, including:
- Increased risk for periodontal disease and traumatic injury.
- Potential use or initiation of tobacco, nicotine, alcohol, and other recreational drugs.
- Desire for, or experimentation with oral piercings.
- Increased risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
- Increased risk of eating disorders.
- Orthodontic considerations.
Not only do teenagers have more complex dental needs during adolescence, but they also tend to experience a higher level of:
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Poor nutritional habits and increased sugar intake.
- Dental phobia.
When added together, this general increase in the needs and risks particular to adolescents (occurring in tandem with a general decrease in oral hygiene and dental care) can present a concerning dilemma.
The Negative Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene
What are the results of poor oral hygiene and dental habits during adolescence?
- Bad breath
- Stained teeth
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Tooth loss
- Dental erosion
These issues affect adolescents’ overall health and wellbeing, leading to everything from pain to missed school; also oral diseases that can lead to serious, lifelong health problems, all the way up to heart disease, and even death.
Research indicates that “irreversible tissue from periodontal disease begins in late adolescence and early adulthood.” The good news is that oral health issues that can become serious or dangerous later in life are mostly preventable during adolescence.
How to Improve Adolescent Dental Health
To prevent serious oral and gum disease, adolescents should:
- Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. One brush should occur last thing at night, and at least one other time during the day.
- Dentists recommend using a toothbrush with soft to medium bristles.
- Use toothpaste that contains 1350 ppm to 1500 ppm fluoride.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Use mouthwash once or twice a day to help kill bacteria and freshen breath.
- Avoid sugary drinks, like pop and fruit juice, and sugary snacks as much as possible. If eating these, try to limit them to mealtimes.
- When you do drink fizzy drinks, like pop, use a straw, so the acids and sugars aren’t washing around the month.
- Chew sugar-free gum after eating. This helps make more saliva, which helps to remove acids formed after eating, decreasing your risk for tooth decay.
- Visit your dental team at least once a year or as often as they recommend.
For younger children, one important way that parents can support their children’s dental health is with the right kind of toothpaste. One great option we suggest starting with is Children’s Tooth Gel from Weleda.
Children’s Tooth Gel by Weleda
Children’s Tooth Gel from Weleda is a tooth gel specially formulated for children to help clean and maintain the health of baby teeth and keep the flora of the mouth in natural balance. It is formulated with natural ingredients while at the same time, deeply cleaning children’s delicate first teeth, through its formulation of ingredients like extracts of calendula flowers to keep gums clean, silica for a thorough cleaning, and flavors of fennel and spearmint, to help make cleaning teeth a happy ritual.
How do you ensure the adolescents in your home keep up with their dental care?