Dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Follow these tips to stop cavities before they start.
- Play it safe. Contact sports can cause oral injuries, but teens can prevent injuries by wearing a mouthguard while playing sports. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year, and dentists regularly recommend the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities. Whether a mouthguard is custom-fitted by a dentist or bought at a store, teens should keep it clean by rinsing it often and storing it in a ventilated container.
- Avoid oral piercings. People with tongue or other mouth piercings can easily chip their teeth while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing. The fracture can be confined to tooth enamel and require a filling, or it may go deeper, which can lead to a root canal or tooth extraction.
Infections are also common with oral piercings. The tongue can swell after being punctured, and in some cases can become infected and swell to such a degree that it interferes with breathing. Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as blood-borne hepatitis.
- Make time for healthy habits. Teens eat quick meals in the form of “nutrition” bars and fast food to stay alert and on schedule between school, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. However, these habits can permanently damage oral and overall health. Teens should have access to healthy snacks such as apples, carrot sticks and cheese and should seek low or no-sugar drinks like organic tea and coconut water. Keeping a travel-size toothbrush in a locker or backpack can help teens keep up good teeth-cleaning habits by brushing after meals and snacks.
Just like adults, teens should visit their dentist at least twice a year. Regular dental visits and cleanings not only help keep teeth bright and shiny (a boost to any teens self-esteem), they can also help catch minor problems before they become worse.