Milestones and Healthy Habits – Tweens and Teens
If your child is in the early teenage years, they are starting a process of great transformation. They—and you as their parent—will struggle with the many social, emotional, cognitive and physical changes they will experience. A teenager will go through many challenges including some that could impact their oral health. Here are the important milestones and healthy habits to be aware of for your tweens and teens.
During these years, many teenagers have braces to help correct their bite or straighten teeth. Proper brushing and flossing are critical (even more important with braces) to prevent tooth decay.
Some children experience more tooth decay in their teenage years because they stray from proper nutrition and habits.
Teenagers usually believe they are invincible and might experiment with alcohol, drugs, vaping and other activities that aren’t good for their oral and general health.
Most kids will have all permanent teeth by the time they are 13 years old. The third molars—more commonly known as the wisdom teeth—will come into child’s mouth between the ages of 17 and 21. Not every child’s teeth develop on the same schedule. In many cases, there is not enough room for wisdom teeth to come in properly or they might grow into the wrong position, so they are called impacted. Your dentist will monitor the growth of your child’s wisdom teeth and if they are impacted will recommend that your child’s wisdom teeth be removed.
Teenagers often drink sports and energy drinks. These drinks are loaded with sugar and not a good choice to maintain healthy teeth. Water is the best choice to keep your teen hydrated even when playing sports.
If your teen plays sports including football, softball/baseball, soccer, lacrosse and other contact sports a properly fitted mouthguard is critical.
Smoking, vaping and other tobacco use is often started during the teenage years. Not only will tobacco use cause bad breath, it can damage your teen’s teeth. Tobacco use might stain their teeth, they might experience slow healing after getting a tooth extracted or with other oral surgery and they might dull their senses of taste and smell. Nicotine is addictive and it can also cause tooth damage.
Some teenagers like to get oral piercings. They risk infection by doing so and tooth damage by repeated clicking of the jewelry on the teeth.
Another challenge during the teenage years that can also negatively impact oral health is eating disorders. When teenagers have bulimia or binge eat and then purge, it not only hurts their health and it can be destructive to their teeth. Teeth and gums need proper nutrition to remain healthy. Those struggling with an eating disorder might also experience frequent dry mouth, which also contributes to tooth decay. When a teen frequently purges, the acids from their stomach can erode the enamel on their teeth which makes the edges of the teeth brittle and can easily break off.
What You Need to Know
Good tooth brushing and flossing is essential to avoid cavities at any age. Hopefully, your teen established some good oral hygiene habits earlier, but it’s never too late to get them started. As the parent, you must continue to reinforce good oral hygiene habits.
It can be challenging to keep teeth clean if your teen wears braces. Be sure to ask your orthodontist or dentist for help and suggestions if your teen isn’t brushing and flossing effectively around braces.
Most smokers started to use tobacco in adolescence. Be mindful that this is a threat for your teen. Vaping is currently the preferred form of tobacco use by teens and the devices can look like everyday items such as USBs, pens and other designs intended to fool parents and school officials.
As with any age, teens should have a healthy diet that’s low in sweets and high in fruits and veggies. As the parent, be sure to stock your house with these healthy options to make it easier for your teen to opt for healthy choices.