If you have teens at home, you know that staying on top of their dental health can be a challenge! Face it: they’re super busy, they no longer let us monitor or assist in their brushing and flossing, and the result is that most parents aren’t sure if their teens are taking care of their teeth! Here are some tips to help you stay on top of your teen’s teeth and encourage them to adopt healthy habits on their own.
Put a Ceiling on Soda
While you can’t control what your teens drink when they aren’t home, you can do so at home. The sugar in sodas coats the teeth, literally bathing them in acid. Sugar-free sodas are no better, as what they lack in sugar they make up for with flavor additives that erode tooth enamel. Here are 3 tips to mitigate the damage that sodas can inflict on dental health:
- Encourage children of any age (as well as yourself) to drink beverages with a straw to limit the contact the beverage has with the teeth.
- Rinse the mouth with water after drinking soda or any sugary beverage. This includes fruit juice and sugar-free drinks.
- Stock lots of cold, bottled water and/or provide filtered water for water bottles and encourage your teens and kiddos of all ages to choose water over soda or other sugary drinks.
Safeguard with Mouth Guards
Children of all ages have what’s called “personal fable,” a belief that one is so unique that life’s difficulties will not affect them regardless of their behavior, and that what happens to others won’t happen to them. For that reason, children often do not understand that they should wear a mouth guard every single time that they engage in contact sports, whether it’s organized sports or a pickup game among friends. Here are 2 tips to avoid tooth damage or loss during sports:
- Be sure your child has a mouth guard. You can get a custom-fitted mouth guard through our pediatric dental practice or pick up one at a sporting goods store, Target or other outlet. Keep it clean and store in a ventilated container to avoid bacterial growth.
- Encourage your child to wear the mouth guard, just as you insist they wear a helmet when skateboarding or riding a bike. It does them no good if it sits in a drawer or sports bag.
Oral piercings can have devastating effects on dental health. Unfortunately, they’re still very popular with teens. Oral jewelry can chip or even fracture teeth, damage oral tissues through bacterial infections, puncture the tongue, and more. The sole tip I have about oral piercings is that parents should insist their children not have them.
Hone In On Healthy Snacks
Kids of all ages love junk food. Make it easy for them to find healthier snacks by stocking the frig and cupboards with fruit, carrot sticks, cheeses, yogurt, popcorn and other foods that can be eaten on the go, in the hand, and taken to school, rehearsals, sports practices & events, and part-time jobs.
Ban Bad Breath in Teens
Teens worry about their interaction with their peers. They worry about their hair, their clothing, their makeup, their weight—you name it. They also worry about bad breath. You can help your teens with these tips:
- Chew sugarless gum made with xylitol that’s approved by the American Dental Association.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day to remove food debris.
- Cut down on sugar to keep the mouth low on acid and bacteria.
Make Tobacco Taboo
Kids like to experiment. Studies show they will experiment with weed, tobacco and vaping. Be sure they understand the damage to their teeth when they engage in these habits—particularly the fact that it will discolor their teeth and give them very bad breath, two things that most teens will want to avoid!
Set The Example
You still have an enormous amount of influence on your teens. Setting a good example with positive dental behaviors, such as brushing & flossing twice a day, abstinence from tobacco, choosing water over sugary drinks and twice-yearly visits to the dentist will go a long way in molding their behaviors.
The Bottom Line
Here in our Lower Manhattan pediatric dental practice, we treat children of all ages, including teens. If we haven’t seen your teen within the past six months, please make an appointment by calling at 212-267-0029.