How can I help prevent cavities?
We see a great frequency of dental caries in teenagers due to the availability of soft drinks and sports drinks in school. Sports drinks are good to use following athletics to replenish fluids, but regular and indiscriminate use bathes the teeth in sugar and acid and leads to decay. We recommend a switch to flavored waters or plain water to give the teeth a break from the sugar-producing acid and provide a chance for them to re-mineralize and heal (see the section on What is Dental Caries for more information on re-mineralization.)
Can we seal out decay?
Sealants can be used to protect the decay-prone areas of the back teeth, and are possibly the best preventive care measures that we can provide. Studies show that sealants can reduce caries in these teeth by 70%. If a teenager has never had decay, we may not suggest sealing his teeth – particularly if he brushes and flosses well and has a healthy diet. However, if a teenager has had a history of cavities, it may be a reasonable recommendation. Sealing can be an effective preventive measure, but should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
What can be done about teeth grinding?
Talk with the dentist if your teenager is grinding her teeth. At this age, teeth grinding can lead to jaw joint problems from the stress of overworking the jaw muscles. Often a custom made mouth guard allows the muscles to rest at night, reduces the pain, and protects the teeth and jaw joint.
What about mouth guards for sports?
We are very supportive of the use of mouth guards in any contact sports, including football, soccer, and hockey. Mouth guards not only protect the teeth, but can reduce concussions and injuries to the jaw joints. A mouth guard must be comfortable and not cumbersome so that your teenager will use it. If you have trouble finding one that fits properly, we can make a custom guard for your teenager.
Is chewing gum bad for teeth?
We encourage the use of sugarless gum to help prevent tooth decay! Sugarless gum can clean the biting surfaces of the molars and stimulate saliva production. This action brings minerals to the surface and helps the teeth heal. Keep in mind that gum with sugar is very bad for the teeth.
What about tobacco use?
Most parents and teenagers are aware that smoking cigarettes is bad for their health, can damage their mouth and lungs, and stain their teeth. It is also important to note that smokeless tobacco is especially dangerous because the nicotine is absorbed directly through the gums. Studies show the incidence of cancer of the mouth increases as a direct result of its use. It is important to understand that tobacco in any form is very detrimental to oral health, and we strongly advise against its use.
Are tooth whitening products safe?
Many teenagers are concerned with personal appearance and having healthy white teeth can boost their self-esteem. While excellent oral hygiene and regular checkups are the best way to a beautiful smile, some teenagers may want to try whitening their teeth for extra dazzle. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products can be safe and effective, but consult with the dentist prior to using them to be sure. For a faster, safer and more effective result, we can provide cosmetic teeth whitening with custom trays. With this process, a chemical reaction occurs within the tooth to produce fast and stable results. Talk with the dentist if your teenager is interested in this process.
What can be done for bad breath?
Many teenagers are concerned with bad breath. Our advice for this problem is to adequately brush your teeth and gums, palate and tongue, and floss every day. We have found that Crest Pro-Health™ toothpaste has been shown to be very effective in reducing bacteria and can improve the breath. Colgate Total™ toothpaste is another good option. We do not recommend that children or teenagers use alcohol-based mouth rinses.
It is important to note that if your teenager has allergies, asthma, or sinus infections, he will often have secondary halitosis that can’t be brushed or rinsed away. In these cases we recommend seeing your child’s doctor to address the primary cause.