The period of adolescence, roughly from ages 10 to 19, can be a tough time for many young adults who are in a phase of physical and psychological growth and development. They are at a time in their lives when they are gaining independence and making decisions for themselves.
That is why parents need to be aware of adolescent oral health risks and provide guidance to their children to avoid these risks.
One of the biggest oral health risks for adolescents is cavities. While research reported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry indicates that the overall cavity rate is declining, it remains highest among adolescents.1 In fact, tooth decay is four times more common than asthma in teenagers 14 to 17 years of age.2
Contributing Factors to Oral Health
There is also a higher prevalence of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) among teens than prepubertal children or adults.3 In fact, studies have shown that three-fourths of 13-17 year-olds had gums that bled.4 Factors contributing to gingivitis in adolescents include an increase in sex hormones during puberty and physical changes to the bone, connective tissue and gums that adolescents experience during puberty.
Gum inflammation and its resulting build-up of plaque which leads to cavities are largely preventable with good nutrition and oral health habits. Eliminating frequent snacking on food and beverages which are high in sugar and acid can go far to prevent plaque and adolescent cavities. So, too can an overall nutritious diet and proper oral hygiene. This includes brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each session and flossing each day.
It is also important that adolescents see a dentist at least once a year and follow any additional recommendations the dentist makes based on their particular needs. These recommendations may include applying sealants to teeth more prone to cavities.
Is Being Active an Oral Risk?
Gingivitis and cavities are not the only threats to good oral health for adolescents. Sports injuries can also cause permanent damage to adolescent teeth. The Academy of General Dentistry estimated that mouthguards prevent more than 200,000 injuries each year.5 The best way to prevent trauma to the teeth is for adolescents to be faithful in wearing mouthguards not only during practices and competitions, but also when engaging in sports simply as recreation.
The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports: acrobatics, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling. Other experts include baseball and softball infielders on that list. 6
Your dentist can provide advice on what type of mouth guard is best for each individual athlete. Having a properly fitted mouth guard does no good, however, if it isn’t worn, so parents need to educate their adolescents on how important wearing a mouthguard can be.
Additional areas of concern for adolescent oral health are piercings and mouth art, use of tobacco and other nicotine products like E-cigarettes, eating disorders and wisdom teeth. These topics will be covered in future posts so that parents and adolescents have the factual information they need to make good oral health decisions.
Our Dental Practice in Commerce MI is a complete family dental clinic that offers services for all dental health concerns. Our experienced staff is professional and committed to the uncompromised care to each of our patients. Our team is experienced in Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Treatments, Dental Procedures, Invisalign, Teeth Whitening, Dental Implants, Orthodontics, Children’s’ Dentistry and more! Call today for a Free Consult.
1,2,3 Oral Health in Children as They Become Teenagers, by Yolanda Eddis, www.colgate.com
4 Oral Health Adolescents Fact Sheet, American Dental Hygiene Association, www.adha.org
5 Avoid Dental Injuries During Summer Sports, www.deltadentalins.com
6 Mouth Guars in Sports: A Necessary Piece of Equipment, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH