Teen Teeth Need Love, Too

Teen Teeth Need Love, Too

Dealing with your child's baby teeth seems pretty simple and straightforward. Limit the amount of sugar they eat, teach them to brush twice a day, and do what you can to make sure they don’t get knocked out too soon.

You also have the benefit of knowing their baby teeth will fall out naturally. Most children begin to lose their baby teeth at six years of age. By the time they are 12 or 13, their baby teeth have been replaced by their adult teeth.

Of course, as your children grow up, they start to have their own idea about how they want to do things. Those pudgy baby cheeks morph into chiseled cheek bones – and sometimes they’re covered facial hair. Try not to panic, your precious kid is still in there. The days of pushing them the toddler swing and hiding sweets on top of the fridge are over. Your tyke is becoming an independent teenager.

Appearance is a top priority for many teenagers. Sadly, studies show that dental visits start to decline as kids get older. What’s important is the way you help your young adult understand how vital oral hygiene is to their overall mental and physical health .

A healthy mouth can reduce the risk of:

  • Kidney problems
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Lung infections
  • Heart disease

As a parent, you are your teenager’s first line of defense for managing their oral health. If teenagers don’t feel confident with their teeth or smile, it can lead to lower self-esteem and other issues. The Center for Disease Control leaving site icon reports untreated cavities can cause pain, absence from school, trouble concentrating on lessons and have negative effect on a teen’s appearance.

You can help by taking your teen to routine dental exams, replacing their tooth brush every two months, encouraging healthy eating habits (sweets in moderation ) and leading by example. The National Health Interview Study leaving site icon found that 86 percent of children whose parents had a dental visit during the previous year also had a dental exam.

Advice for Healthy Teen Teeth

Pass along these

  • Chew sugarless gum. Sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol after can cleanse the mouth after eating.
  • Drink water throughout the day to flush away bacteria and food particles.
  • Avoid juice and soda. Sugary drinks are harmful to teeth. Their flavor additives can damage tooth enamel.  Use a straw to reduce contact between the liquids and teeth. After drinking soda, rinse the mouth with water to reduce the risk of cavities.
  • Skip tongue piercings. Tongue jewelry can chip or fracture teeth while eating, sleeping, talking or chewing. Oral piercings can also cause infection. In some cases, the infection causes the tongue to swell so much that it interferes with breathing.
  • Brush after meals. Stash a travel-size toothbrush in a locker or backpack to make brushing teeth easy after a snack or meal.
  • Visit the dentist at least twice a year. Regular visits help detect minor problems before they become major ones.

Set an example for your teen by caring for your mouth, visiting the dentist and arranging dental exams for your child.

Sources: Children’s Oral Health, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Dental Hygiene, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.

 Originally published 2/24/2016; Revised 2021