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Oral Health Buzz

How to Prevent Tooth Decay and Other Dental Problems in Your Teen

Donna Pleis

It is critical that parents continue to teach their children how to prevent tooth decay after the adolescent years. If your teenager has not had many dental problems so far, then you've done a good job of taking care of his teeth. It may be that preventing tooth decay is no longer on your mind. Here's a dental health alert: The cavity-prone years are not yet behind your teen. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), teens are as susceptible to cavities as children. However, there is a lot you can do to help your teen prevent tooth decay and develop good dental health habits.

Dental Hygiene Basics

Teenagers lead demanding lives with school, sports and social activities, but they should still find time to brush for 2 minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, such as Colgate® Cavity Protection. Flossing before bedtime must become a habit. All of this was easier to monitor when your teen was younger, so you may find it necessary to act as the toothbrush police at times. Remember that, when all else fails, you can appeal to your teen's vanity. White teeth and fresh breath are important for dating and socializing.

Good Eating Habits

Good nutrition becomes a challenge when teens are on the go and making their own food choices much of the time. To prevent tooth decay, the ADA recommends that teens eat healthy snacks between meals and limit sugary foods and drinks. You can help by stocking the fridge with water, milk and easy-to-grab nutritious foods, such as fruit, cheese and veggies. Keep a stockpile of sugarless gum that contains xylitol in the house as well.

Smile Protection

Playing sports and participating in activities such as skateboarding or snowboarding put your teen at risk for injury to his teeth and jaw. Mouthguards protect teeth from breaking or getting knocked out. You should strongly encourage your teen to wear a mouthguard during sports. Talk to your dentist about what type of guard will work best, and ask him to reinforce the need for this kind of protection.

Mouth Jewelry

As a parent, you probably have your own opinion of mouth jewelry. Even so, if you allow your teen to follow this trend, you should educate him in ways to minimize risks associated with the jewelry. The ADA notes that infection, broken teeth, choking on broken jewelry and swelling of the tongue and mouth can occur from this jewelry. Teens must be vigilant about keeping the area clean and resisting the urge to click the jewelry against their teeth. Seek treatment immediately if signs of infection appear.

Dental Visits

Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are still important parts of the whole preventive package for a teenager. Your dentist will take necessary X-rays to check for early signs of decay and to monitor how your teen's wisdom teeth are positioned. Professional cleanings help prevent gum inflammation and bleeding by removing plaque and tartar. Fluoride treatments and sealants can also help your teen fight tooth decay.

Nagging Pays Off

The teen years can be challenging for both parent and child. Sure, you may feel as if you are nagging and overprotective at times, but teaching your teenager how to prevent tooth decay and other dental problems will pay off for you and benefit him for a lifetime.

Learn more about teen oral hygiene in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr

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