Teen years are full of emotional and physical changes. Parents usually observe and guide a child’s physical and emotional health, but dental health is just as important. Dental health is a part of physical and overall health. The teen mouth undergoes changes, as well as the rest of the body. Teenagers’ lifestyle decisions and actions can affect their teeth, gums, and breath odor. So, what should parents know to ensure their teen has a healthy mouth?

Healthy mouth tips for your teen

Concerns that can become serious in adulthood are preventable in adolescence. So, talk to your teen about caring for their teeth and gums. Encourage them to make smart choices about food, drinks, and activities. You can help them to understand some of the effects of their choices on overall and oral health. From the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, these dental health issues are some that as not a concern in younger age groups, but they do affect teens:

Participating in contact sports

Many active adolescents participate in high-energy sports that do not require mouth guards. Soccer, for example, has a high risk of contact to the face by competitors or the ball. Teens participating in contact sports should consider various mouth guard options to ensure mouth safety.

Over-consumption of sugary sodas and foods

Most teenagers understand the effect of sugary or unhealthy foods on their body and teeth, but they overlook drinks. Sodas are very high in sugar, as are sweetened coffee drinks that have become a favorite of teenagers. Even diet sodas negatively affect the teeth, with high levels of phosphoric acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Getting mouth piercings

Teenagers have a need to express themselves, sometimes with choices that affect their appearance, including “mouth art.” Piercings can harbor bacteria and lead to infections, swollen gums, and bad breath. Therefore, piercings should be surgical grade stainless steel and cleaned thoroughly after meals and snacks.

Suffering from eating disorders

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders affect more than emotional state and body health. Eating disorders also create oral health concerns including enamel erosion, infections, and dry mouth, among others.

Presence of puberty gingivitis

Changes in hormones during puberty years can cause an increased reaction of the body to dental plaque. Hormones can pass through the gums and into the mouth, where the bacteria absorb them. The bacteria can release more harmful byproducts, resulting in red and swollen gums that bleed easily. Puberty gingivitis occurs most often in the very early teen years or around age 12.

The best way for your teen to enjoy a sparkling smile and strong teeth is to practice good oral and health habits. Parents should remind and encourage self-care behaviors and set appointments with a dentist. Keeping twice-yearly appointments with a dental professional will help to ensure a healthy and bright smile for your teen.