The teenage years can be a crucial time for influencing the future direction of your child's oral health. This is the time when all adult teeth will be in place and the face and jaws have more rapid development coinciding with the pubertal growth spurt.
Rapid growth and hormonal changes during adolescence can also influence your teen's attitudes about themselves, their dietary choices, activities and fluctuating motivations for self-care, including dental care.
Teens can be taught to actively avoid damaging their teeth at an early age and to safeguard their oral health with support from the dental team. Getting through the teenage years with as much healthy intact tooth structure as possible is the goal. At Melbourne Dentistry, we believe this will maximise your teenager's opportunity of keeping their teeth for life.
During adolescence, as all permanent teeth come through, teens can establish a good foundation for their own oral health, for the rest of their lives. Dietary choices and home self care routines established in early life are the behavioural patterns people often revert to as adults. Ensuring teens continue to brush and floss correctly, with a consistent, twice daily routine in front of the bathroom mirror, will establish dental hygiene as normal part of their daily personal hygiene routine.
At Melbourne Dentistry, we aim to develop a comfortable and positive rapport with teens. We recognise the importance of educating and supporting teenagers to value their dental health and understand regular, 6 monthly dental check ups are an important part of maintaining a healthy life at all ages. By emphasising these concepts routinely, while teens are becoming more independent, we believe, will encourage them to continue with regular dental visits and support positive habits as they become adults and fully responsible for themselves.
As permanent teeth erupt, tooth alignment may not be ideal, and may make teeth cleaning more difficult for your child. For some teens, wisdom teeth may even begin to erupt from 15 years of age. Crowded or protruding teeth and uneven jaw growth will often prompt teens to query parents about braces. Looking good and not wanting to stand out for all the wrong reasons can be powerful motivators to get your teenager to the dentist.
Development of the face and airway may be influenced by early orthodontics and may help reduce future risks for sleep apnea. The timing of orthodontics is important. Regular dental appointments can help identify issues early and idealise the timing of orthodontics for optimal outcomes.
If your teen participates in sporting activities that involve speed, with the risk of collisions to the head and face, a new custom fitted mouth guard is recommended each season, until the growth spurt slows (even during orthodontic treatment), to protect their newly erupted permanent teeth from costly sports associated dental injuries.
During puberty, young girls may experience hormone related gum inflammation. Hormones can increase blood flow to gum tissue and alter how gums react to mouth bacteria, leading to swollen, red and tender gums with noticeably greater bleeding during brushing or flossing. Additionally, some girls may also experience swelling of salivary glands or recurrent mouth ulcers that coincide with the hormonal peaks of their menstrual cycle. Dental care can be tailored to help relieve symptoms during these times.
Peer pressures along with self-esteem issues may leave some teens vulnerable to circumstances that adversely affect their oral health. Extreme changes to dietary habits, associated with conditions such as anorexia or bulimia occurring in the teenage years, could result in severe enamel weakening and dental erosion. Patterns of tooth damage, specific to these conditions, can be recognized at a routine dental check up and may often identify the issue. Identifying such conditions early enables prompt dental and medical treatment, which may prevent severe tooth destruction or other medical issues.
Obesity is another a complex health problem with well recognised medical implications. Obesity is frequently associated with high sugar, cola and junk food consumption - dietary choices which also have significant dental implications. A teen struggling with obesity may have a considerably higher rate of dental decay or tooth erosion. Extensive dental damage, fillings or root canal treatments in permanent teeth during early life, may initiate the need for repeated replacement restorations throughout later life because teeth have been structurally compromised from an early age. Regular dental care to support oral health is critical for teens with complex health issues.
Older teens may be considering habits associated with adulthood such as smoking or consuming their first alcoholic beverage. Support and education from parents and health practitioners, including the dental team, about the implications of such choices may delay if not deter adolescents taking up these habits.
Tongue and lip piercings may be a desirable fashion trend for some, but teens should have advice and close follow up, as these items may increase oral infections, contribute to gum wear and teeth chipping.
Before teens approach adulthood, consider discussing the merits of vaccination with Gardisil® or Cervarix® vaccines with your family's general medical practitioner early, to protect your child (son or daughter) from HPV related oral cancers.
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