The teenage years are fraught with developmental milestones and a growing desire for independence. As a parent, you want them to grow up and make smart decisions about their health and body. When it comes to your teen’s mouth, there are still some things you should keep an eye on to make sure they have every advantage heading into adulthood.
Wisdom Teeth- Wisdom teeth develop under the gum by around age 13 and usually poke through between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes they need to be extracted because your teen’s mouth is too small, or they aren’t coming in upright. This can make them crooked or impacted. Or sometimes, because they are so hard to reach and keep clean, they develop a cavity as they are coming in. By making sure your teen makes and keeps regular visits, their hygienist and dentist can evaluate your teen’s development and help you decide if their wisdom teeth should be removed.
Orthodontics- If your teen is wearing braces or has clear aligners, it’s important for them to keep all check-up appointments to make sure treatment is progressing as it should. If your teen hasn’t had an orthodontic evaluation or complains of jaw pain, headaches, or trouble chewing, an ortho consult might be a good idea. Braces aren’t just to make a smile straight, but they also help correct bite problems that can cause pain and make chewing difficult too.
Eating Disorders- Bulimia and anorexia affect more than 10 million Americans. They are severe disorders, and in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture any teen can feel like they aren’t thin enough or pretty enough. Acids in vomit can wear the enamel on your teeth causing tooth decay and throwing up after each meal prevents your body from absorbing necessary nutrients in your food. Without proper nutrition, your teen may develop bleeding gums, excessive weight loss, chronic dry mouth, and weakness. If you think your child or teen has an eating disorder, make an appointment with their doctor and seek counseling.
Tobacco Use- By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But all tobacco products carry risks, like oral cancer. It goes without saying, if you don’t smoke or chew tobacco, don’t start. But teens are more susceptible to peer pressure, and one cigarette can quickly turn into a life-long habit. Smoking cigarettes and cigars and using chewing tobacco not only stains your teeth but also causes tartar build-up and bad breath. It can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and severe health issues. Smoking and tobacco use can stunt your healing ability and lessen your senses of smell and taste. If your teen smokes, ask their dentist to discuss techniques on quitting before their habit is too hard to kick.
Mouth Jewelry- Tongue rings and oral piercings might look cool to your teen, but they can have serious side effects. Infections, chipped or broken teeth, and choking are just a few reasons to tell your teen no to this trend. Oral piercings can also cause complications like uncontrollable bleeding and nerve damage.
Being a parent to a teen can be tough even without constantly worrying about their health and safety. With a careful eye and a little love, you can give your teen the advantages they need to step into adulthood confident and prepared for anything life can throw at them.