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Male and female teenagers smiling outdoors.Male and female teenagers smiling outdoors.

7 Habits of Teens With Healthy Teeth and Gums

By: BeSeen Team

Date: February 1, 2024

University applications, varsity practice, big emotions, acne – it’s a lot for teens to balance on their plates. And in the rollercoaster of adolescence, maintaining healthy teeth and gums may take a back seat. 

To demonstrate, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reveals that nearly 57% of adolescents 12 to 19 years old have experienced dental caries in their permanent teeth. Meanwhile, a survey by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health finds that only 7% flossed daily. Additionally, most respondents had their first dental visit too late. Yikes!

Before issues escalate, instil these habits in your teenager to help them safeguard their smile during these formative years.

1. Eating Healthy Snacks 

Two teenage girls happily eating sandwiches and juice.
Replace their usual junk food with healthy snacks to protect your teen from tooth decay.

For many teenagers, junk food and soda are diet staples. But highly acidic and sugary foods can mean bad news for your teen’s teeth. Instead, introduce them to healthier treats. Have a healthy after-school snack waiting for them at home, like fresh fruits or veggie sticks and hummus.

2. Trading Sports Drinks for Water 

Between athletics training in school and friendly basketball games at the nearby park, your teen’s busy after-school schedule can leave them constantly parched. But before packing their gym bags with bottles of sports drinks, consider the high levels of dietary acid and added sugar they contain. These ingredients can damage tooth enamel, setting the stage for decay. For healthy teeth and gums, stick to good old H2O.

3. Not Smoking 

Teenagers often feel invincible, and this YOLO motto might push them to engage in risky behaviour, like smoking cigarettes. They’re probably aware of the risks linked to nicotine use but might overlook them for the sake of looking cool.

Talk to them about the harmful effects smoking has on teeth. Here are some uncool dental issues associated with nicotine addiction that you might bring up: 

  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Nicotine stains on teeth, tongue, and lips
  • A dull sense of taste and smell
  • Painful, bleeding gums
  • Mouth or throat cancer 

4. Avoiding Mouth Piercings 

While you’re on the topic of keeping your teen from making bad decisions, warn them against mouth piercings. Embrace whatever stage they’re in, but not to the extent of a nasty oral infection. The mouth is home to millions of bacteria, so piercings in or around the area can increase the risk of inflammation. There’s also the danger of teeth chipping and difficulty eating or speaking.

Mouth piercings can also lead to problems more serious than not being able to chew properly. Research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health links mouth piercings to conditions like endocarditis and hepatitis. 

5. Using a Mouthguard 

Athlete with headgear holding a mouthguard.
Mouthguards protect against dental injuries when playing contact sports.

If you can’t keep your teen from extreme sports like skateboarding or boxing, a mouthguard will protect their teeth from dental injuries. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends wearing one when playing a contact sport or whenever there’s a chance of being hit in the face or mouth. Additionally, dental aligners, like those from ClearCorrect, are an excellent option for kids involved in sports as they carry lower risks of mouth injuries compared to traditional orthodontics with brackets and wires.

6. Getting a Dental Filling to Restore Teeth Structure 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “between 40% and 57% of 12- to 15-year-old teenagers had some history of decay in their permanent teeth.” This alarming statistic underscores the need for dental fillings to restore teeth structure. 

Encourage your teen to consult a dentist regarding possible holes and to discuss the appropriate solution for their condition. Several filling material options are available, including composite resin, glass-ionomer cement, dental amalgam, gold, and porcelain. Your doctor can assess various factors and suggest the most suitable type for your teen.

7. Visiting the Dentist Regularly 

Woman smiling in a dentist’s chair with a back view of a dentist.
Keeping teeth and gums healthy during adolescence prevents problems from carrying over to adulthood.

To ensure your teen has healthy teeth and gums, make sure they see a dentist at least bi-annually. Beyond preventing cavities, these visits can uncover underlying health conditions. For instance, damaged enamel or stained teeth may point to signs of an eating disorder or an addiction to smoking or other substances. 

Regular dental visits can also help detect signs of malocclusion and determine the most appropriate treatment plan. When your teenager comes of age, urge them to ask their doctor about a more comfortable and subtle alternative for addressing dental misalignments. ClearCorrect aligners offer an ideal orthodontic solution for busy lifestyles. They’re completely removable, allowing you to eat and clean your teeth with ease. 

Helping teens develop habits to maintain healthy teeth and gums is no easy task, but it isn’t impossible. As your teenager enters adulthood, leave them the legacy of a beautiful smile. Whether taking care of their oral health or avoiding vices, show them you’ll be there to guide them every step of the way. 

 

References:

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Policy on prevention of sports-related orofacial injuries. The Reference Manual of Pediatric Dentistry. Chicago, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; 2023:122-7.

American Dental Association. (n.d.). Meth Mouth.

Dental caries (Tooth decay) in adolescents (Ages 12 to 19 years). (n.d.). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Dental health of Australia’s teenagers and pre-teen children: the Child Dental Health Survey, Australia. (2023). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Malcangi, G., Patano, A., Palmieri, G., Riccaldo, L., Pezzolla, C., Mancini, A., Inchingolo, A. D., Di Venere, D., Piras, F., Inchingolo, F., Dipalma, G., & Inchingolo, A. M. (2023). Oral Piercing: A Pretty Risk—A scoping review of local and systemic complications of this current widespread fashion. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(9), 5744.

Moynihan, P. (2016). Sugars and dental caries: evidence for setting a recommended threshold for intake. Advances in Nutrition, 7(1), 149–156.

Sbricoli, L., Bernardi, L., Ezeddine, F., Bacci, C., & Di Fiore, A. (2022). Oral Hygiene in Adolescence: A Questionnaire-Based Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(12), 7381.

School dental program prevents 80 percent of cavities with one-time, non-invasive treatment. (2023, February 23). ScienceDaily.

World Health Organization: WHO. (2017b, November 9). Sugars and dental caries.

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