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Oral health concerns for teens

lafayette la dentist tim chauvinThere is a word that begins with a “P” that strikes fear into the heart of every parent… Puberty. A time of rampant mental and physical development, puberty can make a teenager’s life pretty rough! In addition to all of the regular side-effects, there are some oral health concerns that parents of teenagers should be on the lookout for.

Make sure they’re maintaining proper oral hygiene

Teens have a lot going on! Class, homework, friends, extra-curricular activities, and chores can make for a hectic schedule. When they’re exhausted from band or football practice, and have a mountain of homework they had to do the night before? An extra five minutes of sleep seems more valuable than proper daily oral hygiene.

Make sure you talk with your teen about the importance of taking good care of their teeth! They may seem annoyed now, but in the long run, they’ll be glad of it. Continue to take them to their annual or semi-annual dental checkups as well. Even if it’s difficult to work into their busy schedule, it’s still an important preventative measure!

It’s worth noting that if you had your teen’s teeth sealed as a child, the protective layer will have started to wear off by now.

Promote proper dietary habits

What happens when you take poor dental hygiene and add bad dietary habits? Cavities. Did you know that tooth decay has the highest rate among teens? It is four times more common than asthma in people aged 14-17! Frequent snacking on sugary foods and acidic beverages like soda, coupled with a decline in proper vitamins and minerals, equals a trip to the dentist. Encourage your teen to drink more water, and to eat snacks that aren’t laden with sugar and carbs. Or at the very least, have them brush after each meal.

Watch for gingivitis

When there is plaque surrounding the teeth, the gums have an inflammatory response. They become inflamed, red, and bloody when irritated. It’s a fairly common problem. As a matter of fact, gingivitis is more common in teens than it is in prepubescent children or adults. It is suspected that the increase of sex hormones during puberty is the reason. Luckily, it is reversible with proper brushing, flossing, and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse.

By helping your teen prioritize their dental health, you will save them a lot of trouble down the road. And they’ll develop good habits that they will carry with them into adulthood. Call Dr. Chauvin if you need to bring them in!

Why Flossing Is So Important

Raise your hand if you have been to the dentist and lied when he or she asked – “Have you been flossing regularly?”  Even though we feel the need to say ‘Yes,’ that still doesn’t give us the kick we need to go home and floss everyday as the American Dental Association recommends. [source: ADA]. While brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you leave the floss unused in the back of your medicine cabinet.

While the toothbrush works by physically removing plaque with its bristles and the toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush by reducing the amount of bacteria in your mouth –  there is a big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums [source: ADA].

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What does flossing do?

Flossing helps remove debris between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it has a chance to harden into plaque.  Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar and can only be removed through a professional cleaning by a dental professional. When this happens, brushing and cleaning between teeth become more difficult, and gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, and if left unchecked, the bacteria-laden tartar and plaque can spread even deeper below the gum line, causing periodontitis.

  This expensive snowball effect can be avoided by flossing.

When is the best time to floss?

According to the American Dental Association, you can floss either before or after brushing.  However, if you use dental floss before you brush, the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching between teeth. Unlike brushing, you only need to floss once a day. Although you may choose to do it in the morning or afternoon, many prefer to floss at night to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. This could prevent the build-up of plaque too.

 

How to choose the right floss

When picking a floss it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how many varieties there are.  All floss types work well when used daily but it is important to know the differences in teeth and what works best for your type. There is waxed, unwaxed, tape, ultra floss and flossing picks – just to name a few. 

A few helpful tips when choosing:

  • Large gaps? Try dental tape 
  • Not much space between your teeth? Try waxed floss to slide into those tight spaces.
  • Want less mess? Look for disposable flossers 
  • Braces or bridges? A spongy floss is a good option

 

It is important to remember to floss everyday and if you need a reason there are plenty to choose from!  Maybe you want fresher breath or whiter teeth  – whatever your reason just START FLOSSING!