Teenagers can be challenging and amazing as they try to strive for independence. Hopefully, parents have instilled good diet and brushing habits by this time. These children have so many more freedoms with their time away from home. They also have many more temptations for junk food. I tell my pre-teen/early teenage patients, you need to make good choices. How can your parents trust you to hang out with friends and to be driving soon, if you can’t even brush your teeth properly and make intelligent choices about what you eat. Giving teenagers a sense of responsibility is important.
Another aspect of being a teenager is expressing themselves. One way of expressing is through piercings, these include lip and/or tongue piercings. From an oral health perspective, these are not recommended, but some children are persistent and all we can do is educate them. Concerning lip piercing, it is important to watch for infections of the lip and wearing of the enamel where the ring is resting on the tooth. Tongue piercings are also at risk for infection. The ends of the tongue barbell can easily go between the teeth during eating and talking. If bitten down on the cusps (points) of the teeth, the cusp can fracture or chip off which can result in pain and require treatment. To help decrease the risk of damage due to the metal balls, it is recommended for plastic ends to be used.
A child’s appearance becomes much more important during the teenage years. They begin to care about relationships and what their peers think. Many teenagers begin to think about having straight teeth. Parents will see children as early as 10 years old with braces and ask is it time for my child to get braces? But each child has their own needs and we will guide the parents as to when the proper timely of braces should occur. Another important concern of theirs is bleaching their teeth. Is this safe at their age? Yes. Here are a few facts to remember:
- Over The Counter Products (e.g. Crest Whitening Strips) and Professional Whitening kits can be used. But it is important that as parents you STRESS to your child that they follow the directions. They may want immediate results and think that more is better. It is NOT!! I have seen teeth destroyed by the bleaching chemicals when used incorrectly.
- Bleaching should be done after orthodontic (braces) treatment.
- Bleaching should only be used on healthy teeth. Therefore, an examination should be done by the dentist prior to starting bleaching to rule out any cavities. If the bleaching solution is used and a cavity is present, the cavity will progress rapidly and destroy the tooth.
Remember the teens years are a time for exploration and fitting in. Helping your child do that in a healthy way is what we do!