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If you've got a preteen or teenager, you know just how tough it can be to get your message heard. After all, when you're a teenager, it's easy to believe that you're immune to life's dangers -- including health problems such as gum disease. But as a parent, you probably know that the opposite is true: According to TeenHealth.com approximately 60 percent of 15-year-old teenagers have gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Fortunately, gingivitis is preventable, and you can play a major role in preventing your teenager from developing gum disease and other oral health conditions.
Your teenager may not think it's "cool" to brush and floss or limit their consumption of sugar-laden foods and drinks. Even so, it's important for parents to emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene and healthy eating habits.
While most teens care about the appearance of their teeth, many do not know a lot about the steps they should be taking to maintain good oral health. But there are a number of teen-specific dental concerns that you and your teen should be aware of.
Most teens lead very busy and active lives. Their hectic schedules and increasing independence can translate into less time and effort being spent taking care of their teeth.
Making and maintaining a dental care routine is an essential part of safeguarding oral health. Your teen should be brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease caused by dental plaque build-up.
If your teen wears dental braces or other devices made by an orthodontist, it may be necessary for them to use special flosses to clean around wires and brackets and to brush their teeth after every meal to prevent dental plaque and debris from clinging to teeth. It is a good idea for teens to carry a small toothbrush and floss with them or keep these items in their lockers.
Regular dental visits are also an indispensable part of maintaining dental health that is often overlooked during the teen years. It is important for your teen find the time to work regular dental visits and dental cleanings into their schedule to ensure that any problems are caught early on and to promote good oral health.
Regular dental visits also play an integral part in your teenager's oral health, so always project a positive attitude about visiting the dentist -- chances are your teen will follow suit. And never use a dental visit as a form of punishment for your teenager who has bad oral habits. Instead, create a sense of optimism about dental visits by saying things like "Your mouth is going to feel great after a visit with our family dentist!"
If your teen participates in sports, it is very important that they protect their smile while on the field or court. Wearing a mouthguard is the best way to avoid chipped teeth, lost teeth or cut lips.
If your teen wears dental braces, it is especially important for them to wear a mouthguard or night guard, because dental braces can cut and tear the soft tissues of the mouth. And of course, a knocked-out tooth is the ultimate undoing of any orthodontic treatment.
Sports and energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular with children and teens, and dentists are becoming concerned about the lasting impact that this trend may have on oral health.
According to a study from the University of Iowa, sports drinks are even more corrosive to teeth than colas and energy drinks. Researchers found that the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks can damage tooth enamel and the roots of teeth.
In the study, teeth were continuously exposed to sports drinks, colas, diet colas, energy drinks and apple juice for over 25 hours. Sports drinks were found to be the most corrosive to both enamel and the roots of teeth. Cola and energy drinks were the next most corrosive, followed by diet cola and apple juice.
Another study from the University of Birmingham found that athletes' dry mouths limited the ability of saliva -- which normally protects teeth by rinsing away acids and debris -- to neutralize the effects of sports drinks. The researchers also said that it would be possible to develop sports drinks that did not harm teeth if enamel-protecting additives were used.
The good news is that if you are only using sports drinks to stay hydrated during athletic events, you probably don't have too much to worry about. An Ohio State University study of 304 athletes found that there was no correlation between tooth erosion and sports drink consumption.
Researchers from the Gatorade® Sports Science Institute have said that sports drinks hydrate and stimulate tooth-protecting saliva flow during athletics, but you should avoid sipping them throughout the day since this will prolong teeth's contact with harmful sugar and acid.
Studies have demonstrated that the majority of long-term tobacco users begin using tobacco products during their teen years. It is important that you remind your teen about the negative health effects of smoking and tobacco use. Most health problems associated with tobacco use, such as tooth and gum staining, dental tartar build-up and bad breath, may not be noticeable until years after use starts. This means that addiction will probably make the habit harder to break by the time they notice its effect.
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