Oral Health: Teens

Published on 03 May 2021


Common Problems

Crooked Teeth
Your smile is one of the most important reflections of your individual personality. Better looking teeth can restore self-confidence and improve overall well-being. Unfortunately many people who, because of crooked teeth or misaligned jaws, feel unattractive and suppress the natural urge to smile. Apart from appearance, crooked teeth are more difficult to clean and people with crooked teeth tend to have more cavities and gum problems. In some cases, teeth that do not fit together correctly can suffer from the forces of biting and may lead to gum problems or shifting of the jaw. Puberty and teenage are the best times to correct mal-aligned or crooked teeth. At an orthodontic consultation, our dentist will evaluate your problem and explain the details of the treatment required.

Teeth Whitening
If you wish to have a brighter smile, then teeth whitening may be an option for you. Ask our dentist for help as they can provide more effective teeth whitening treatments than the ‘do-it-yourself’ kits available at pharmacies. Before having your teeth whitened, your dentist will check to make sure your teeth are suitable to be treated. In some cases treatment may be difficult or ineffective, for example with staining caused during tooth formation by certain antibiotics. Teeth whitening may make your old fillings or crowns look darker after treatment, so it is very important to be checked and advised of this.

Mouth-guards are soft, rubbery devices customized to fit over your teeth and prevent broken teeth, chips or injuries to the lips. They shield the teeth in an impact situation by providing a cushion which gives protection when the jaws are driven hard together. A good mouth-guard should be of sufficient thickness in the correct areas, resilient, well retained, comfortable, and should not interfere with speaking and breathing. If you play sports like hockey or roller-blading, it is prudent to protect your teeth with mouth guards.

Knocked Out Teeth
When accidents happen, teeth can sometimes be knocked out completely. Sometimes, they can be put back in by a dentist. Follow these injury management tips to reduce the likelihood of any long-term damage. First make sure that the injured person does not show any signs of head injury, unconsciousness, nausea, persistent headaches, or any other warning signs of a serious injury. Once this is ruled out, see a dentist as quickly as possible. The sooner the tooth or teeth is replanted in its socket, the greater the chance of retaining it for life.

Steps to follow:

  1. Find the tooth and hold it by the smooth white part that is usually visible in the mouth – the crown NOT root
  2. Do not scrub or rinse the tooth in anything except water or milk
  3. If the tooth is clean, hold it by the crown, making sure it’s the right way round, gently push it into its socket
  4. If it is dirty, rinse it in milk, or for not more than 1-2 second in cold water, gently push it back into its socket
  5. Hold the tooth in place by biting on a piece of cloth and go to a dentist immediately

If you are not comfortable putting the tooth back in:

  1. Do not let the tooth become dry and do not place it in disinfectant
  2. Either place it in a cup of milk or if milk is not available, keep it in the mouth between the cheeks and gums
  3. Go to the dentist immediately

This advice is only for managing knocked-out permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is knocked out, do not try to put it back in its socket, as this may damage the unerupted permanent tooth. Always seek advice and treatment from a dentist.

Erosion is the loss of the surface of the tooth, especially enamel that is caused by acid attack. This is different from bacterial acid attack that we call tooth decay. Enamel is the hard outer surface of the tooth seen when we smile and it protects the sensitive dentine underneath. Erosion of the enamel can lead to exposure of the dentine, which may lead to pain and sensitivity with cold foods and drinks.

Erosion is a slow process that people generally do not become aware of until significant enamel is already lost. Erosion often shows up as hollows on the top surface of the molar teeth or the teeth seem to become smaller or thinner as the enamel erodes away. As the enamel wears away exposing the underlying dentine the teeth may appear a darker yellow colour -the colour of the dentine- and sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods and drinks may become noticeable.

How to prevent dental erosion?

  1. Limit the number of times each day you eat and drink acid foods and drinks – this reduces the number of acid attacks on your teeth
  2. Don’t hold your drinks in the mouth or swish the drinks around your mouth
  3. Finish your meals with cheese or a milk drink as this will help to neutralize the dietary acids
  4. If you eat or drink anything acidic, wait for about one hour before brushing your teeth. Brushing straight after acidic foods and drinks may cause even more enamel damage.

Oral Piercing
Many who consider oral piercing do not realise the side effects that could occur to them. Health problems can arise from the procedure and the long term use of the jewellery. The wound created by piercing can increase your risk of oral infections, damage to your gums and teeth, bleeding, and can even increase your risk for the transmission of certain diseases. There is also a chance that the oral bacteria can enter the blood stream through the wound created during the procedure and can increase the risk for developing endocarditis in people who have underlying heart problems.

People with oral piercings, especially tongue piercings have greater risk of developing gum disease than others without oral piercings. Constant rubbing of the metal studs against the gums and teeth can cause gums to recede or chip the teeth. They can damage old fillings and can cause difficulty eating and speaking clearly.Express yourself with a healthy smile and not by the jewellery in your mouth.

Smoking is bad for your health including oral health. It is easy to see the effects of smoking on your teeth. It causes tooth staining, persistent bad breath, reduced sense of taste and smell, accumulation of calculus (tartar), gum disease, tooth loss and in severe cases oral cancer.

Smoking reduces blood flow to the gums, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients that allow gums to stay healthy, and leaving them vulnerable to bacterial infection. Smokers also exhibit delayed healing after dental procedures. Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers and gum disease is the most common causes of tooth loss in adults. Smoking can also increase your risk of developing mouth and throat cancer, lung cancer, mouth sores or lesion that do not heal, heart disease and/or stroke, and chronic bronchitis. It is good not to start smoking in the first instance. If you smoke, then consider quitting.

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  • Wisdom teeth appear at the back of your mouth during your late teens or early twenties. Often there is no room for them to come through the gum and they fail to emerge properly. A wisdom tooth can erupt partly through the gum or remain trapped as an impacted wisdom tooth.

  • Not always but it is wise to seek advice from a dentist:

    1. Wisdom teeth can be very difficult to clean and are prone to tooth decay, gum disease, and recurring infections
    2. Cysts and tumours can develop in tissues around impacted wisdom teeth
    3. If your wisdom teeth are unable to erupt, they may cause pressure and damage or crowd the neighbouring teeth
    4. Wisdom tooth extractions are easier when you are younger
  • A normal mouth has a pH of 6.2 to 7, which is close to neutral with no damage done to the teeth. Though enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it begins to dissolve at pH levels below 5.5. Fizzy drinks are very acidic with an average pH of 3.5. This acid dissolves the tooth enamel and makes it prone to decay. Diet or sugar-free drinks may not have sugar, but they usually contain harmful acid. Some also contain caffeine which reduces the salivary flow into the mouth and reduces the benefits of saliva.

  • Bacteria in your mouth use carbohydrates as energy and produces acid as a by-product. Some carbohydrates, especially those like sucrose as found in sweets and soft-drinks, cause more acid to be produced and are bad for your teeth. Avoid eating sugary, sticky and crispy snacks in between meals. Replace these with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit pieces, cheese, chopped vegetables and sandwiches. Stick to water and milk, especially between meals.

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