As your child enters their teenage years, it can feel like new transitions are coming almost every day. Because they are always on-the-go and distracted by a whole new world that has opened up to them (high school, first jobs, etc…), you can be fairly certain that dental health is not on their radar throughout the day. A hectic school schedule, part-time job, extracurriculars, and social life make for a very busy teenager! It’s natural to think that your teen will continue on the path of oral health that you worked tirelessly to instill during childhood, but unfortunately, this is not always true. Here are some of the main dental issues that are common during the teenage years:
Injury caused by contact sports
The sports that pose the biggest risk to the facial area are baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. These contact sports can result in extreme injury to not only the mouth area, but the entire jaw.
Decay caused by excess junk food
Hormones, a hectic lifestyle, and a stomach that is practically a bottomless pit (particularly for athletes) create the perfect storm during the teenage years. Quick and easy processed food combined with large amounts of sugary drinks is the diet of choice for many teens, and the inevitable result is tooth decay.
Issues stemming from crooked teeth
Misalignment of teeth is more than an aesthetic problem. When teeth are crooked, food can get trapped easier and cleaning is less effective. Gums begin to suffer as well because of the bacteria that is able to linger.
Neglect of consistent brushing and flossing
The simple tasks of brushing twice daily and flossing once can start to feel overwhelming for a teenager who is rising early for school, rushing out the door, and coming home late and exhausted many nights. Although the reasons are all perfectly understandable, neglecting to brush and floss on a consistent basis is the most detrimental thing you can do for your oral health. The consequences might be felt years down the road, but decay and gum disease will take its toll at some point.
Most parents can relate to this list, as these concerns are incredibly common. Regardless, brushing off good dental health as unattainable for the everyday teenager is a dangerous assumption to make. You can absolutely play an active role in helping your teen with their oral health as they transition into this new world of changing features and nonstop activity. Here are a few ways that you can set them up for success:
- Make sure that they are wearing a mouth guard if they play sports. This should be non-negotiable. All it takes is one big blow to the face for shattered teeth or a broken jaw.
- Stock the kitchen with plenty of nutritious foods. Keep healthy snacks around and keep the supply of processed foods and soft drinks to a minimum.
- Help your teen maintain regular dental visits. With their round-the-clock time commitments, they will need your help scheduling important appointments. If crooked teeth are an issue, make it a priority to talk to the dentist about treatment options.
- Be a model of oral health. If you are trying to instill the value of oral health but are not setting a good example yourself, it is very unlikely that your teenager will take dental care seriously.
Setting your children up for dental success is one of the best things you can do for them, as the health of your teeth and gums tends to become incredibly important the older you get. Helping your teenager with oral care should be a top priority, as treating decay and avoidable injuries will be something that neither of you want to deal with in the midst of hectic schedules. Take the time to invest your teen’s dental health, and they will thank you, even if it’s years down the road!