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Teenage Zone

Teenage Zone

Teenage Zone

Key points

  • To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, teenagers should brush teeth twice a day and avoid sugary foods and drinks.
  • Smoking, alcohol and other drugs can affect oral health.
  • Teenagers should have regular dental check-ups, usually every 6-12 months.

The 32 adult teeth replace the baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 20 years. By the age of 12, most children have all their adult teeth except for their third molars (wisdom teeth), which appear around 18-20 years.

You do not have to pay for NHS dental services if you’re under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education.

Regarding dental health, teenagers face unique challenges compared to adults, such as:

  • Wisdom teeth
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Oral injuries from playing sports
  • Experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia
  • Oral piercings

Common Dental Concerns for Teenagers

The following are common concerns among teens and young adults:

Tobacco Products

  • Smoking cigarettes has many harmful effects on oral health, including:
  • Plaque and tartar buildup
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Oral cancer
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Eating Disorders

Mental health conditions like anorexia and bulimia have devastating effects on a teenager’s physical and emotional well-being.  Eating disorders can also lead to common oral conditions, including:

  • Dental erosion — Frequent vomiting causes stomach acid to repeatedly flow over the teeth, wearing away tooth enamel and causing weak teeth.
  • Nutritional deficiencies — Restricting food leads to vitamin deficiencies, which promotes gum disease and tooth decay. Bad breath, dry mouth, and canker sores can also develop.

Oral Injuries– Teenagers who play sports are at an increased risk for oral trauma. This includes jaw fractures, broken teeth, and injuries to the mouth’s soft tissues.  Mouth guards dramatically reduce the risk of oral injuries during sports. Make sure you wear a mouth guard.

Oral Piercings– Many teens and young adults get oral piercings on the tongue or lips.   Mouth jewellery can lead to nerve damage, excessive drooling, and block X-rays during dental exams.

Alcohol and Drugs– Many teenagers begin experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. Teenagers are also more likely to binge drink, which can lead to alcohol addiction later on.  Alcoholism can result in serious oral health problems, such as:

  • Periodontal disease — A severe condition that results in irreversible loss of bone and surrounding tissues.
  • Oral cancer — A life-threatening disease involving the growth of mouth sores that don’t heal and worsen over time.
  • Excessive alcohol use can also increase the risk of dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, dental erosion, and gingivitis.

Common Dental Treatments and Procedures for Teenagers

Here are some common dental treatments and procedures for teens and young adults:

Braces- The teenage years are a common time for orthodontic treatment. Braces are the most commonly used orthodontic treatment to fix a misaligned smile.  An orthodontist typically places braces when a child or teen is between 10 and 15. Older teens and young adults are also candidates for braces.

Clear Aligners– Clear aligners are also called invisible aligners. Invisible aligners correct misaligned or crooked teeth. They’re a custom, removable, and “invisible” alternative to braces.  Many teens and young adults choose clear aligners over braces because they’re removable and more aesthetically pleasing.

Teeth Whitening– Tooth whitening is a popular cosmetic treatment for teenagers and young adults who want a brighter smile. This may be especially true before big events like proms and graduation.  Some people whiten their teeth at home, while others go to the dentist for professional treatment. Talk to your dentist about the best option.

Wisdom Teeth Removal– Wisdom teeth (third molars) typically erupt during the late teenage years or early adulthood. They’re the last set of molars to grow in.  Most people don’t have enough space in their mouths for wisdom teeth to grow in naturally. This is why they’re usually removed between ages 16 and 20. The extraction procedure prevents irregular eruptions and infections.

Periodontal Treatment– Puberty and menstruation can cause increased inflammation and gum sensitivity. As a result, teens are commonly diagnosed with gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Common symptoms of gingivitis include swollen, red, and bleeding gums.  Prioritizing professional teeth cleanings and good oral health at home are the best remedies for mild gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease (severe gum disease) over time. This condition causes permanent oral health damage and requires intensive treatment.

Wisdom teeth

These normally grow in much later and can be expected between 17 and 21 years. For some people wisdom teeth don’t grow in at all. Your dentist will be able to offer advice on wisdom teeth and may be able to advise you, through X-rays, on the progress of your wisdom teeth.

On occasion some people have problems when their wisdom teeth start to come through. This can be down to positioning, space in the mouth or the direction they are growing in. Problems with the wisdom teeth can lead to pain and more serious problems and on occasion they will have to be removed. Removal of wisdom teeth will depend on the positioning in the mouth. Sometimes removal can take place in your usual dental practice with only local anaesthetic, however some people may need to have them removed in hospital under general anaesthetic.

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