Adolescence is an especially important time to focus on oral hygiene. Recent data have shown that 75% of teens have gum bleeding and about 13% have at least one untreated cavity, which can be related to their oral health. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Jasmine Reese, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shares several important things adolescents should consider in order to maintain good oral hygiene and dental health.
Brushing and Flossing to Prevent Dental Caries
Dental caries are also what we call cavities or tooth decay. If left untreated, these can cause pain and lead to infection. You are at higher risk for cavities if you eat and drink a lot of sugary foods or drinks, have braces or family history. Cavities generally are preventable by brushing your teeth two times per day, daily flossing and using fluoride toothpaste.
Be sure to ask about the products used for piercing. Materials that are not surgical grade stainless steel can cause infection or allergic reaction. Playing with the oral piercing inside of the mouth can lead to infection of the gums and also tooth decay. It is especially important to clean piercings after meals to prevent bacterial overgrowth, infection and bad breath.
Be sure to wear a mouthguard when playing any contact sport. They are designed to decrease the risk of trauma to the oral cavity by absorbing high impact energy that may occur during play. There are different types of mouthguards including ones that are pre-made and come in different sizes. You can also use a custom-made mouthguard and your dentist can help you identify which type is best for you.
Smoking, Vaping and Tobacco Use
Smoking, vaping and tobacco use, as we know, can affect many parts of the body, especially brain development in adolescents. Additionally, there are several oral effects from smoking that teens may not be thinking about. These include bad breath, desensitization of taste buds, teeth staining, mouth sores, gum disease, oral bone loss and oral cancers. It is best for teens to avoid any use of nicotine or tobacco products, and they should talk to their health care providers if they have started smoking or vaping and need help quitting.
Healthy nutrition during adolescence is important to maintain for many reasons, which also includes for oral health. Sugary drinks and soda can lead to cavities and also negatively impact the bones surrounding your teeth. Adolescents struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa can be at high risk for tooth enamel erosion, swollen glands and oral infections. Be sure to replace sugary beverages with water or milk instead, and eat a well-rounded diet throughout each day.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Jasmine Reese, M.D.