Oral Hygiene Tips for Preteens and Teenagers (Ages 10–19)

oral hygiene tips for preteens and teenagers

Adolescence is famous for being a season of change, especially in the body. However, many people forget that your oral health needs also change during this time. The oral hygiene tips you learned as a child may need to be tweaked or expanded to serve you well as a teenager.

In our Oral Hygiene Tips blog series, we’re diving deep into the oral health concerns your child should be aware of at every age. Our Hudsonville pediatric dentists are eager to help our patients adopt new oral health practices as they grow.

Our first blog dealt with oral health risks and hygiene tips for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Next, we examined the health risks faced by school-age children ages seven to nine. In this final blog of our series, let’s take a look at common risks and practices for preteens and teenagers. 

Oral Health Risks for Preteens and Teenagers

Preteens and teenagers need to pay special attention to the following aspects of their dental health:

  • Dental emergencies
  • Eating disorders
  • Gum disease and oral cancer

Dental Emergencies

It’s estimated that three out of four American households have at least one school-aged child participating in youth sports. 

While sports are a great form of exercise, they can also unfortunately be the cause of many dental emergencies. Without proper protection, preteens and teenagers may suffer dental or facial trauma on the field, court, or pitch.

Serious facial trauma requires emergency medical treatment, not dental treatment. However, the two may go hand in hand. Make sure your teenage athlete receives emergency medical care for any broken bones first. Then, you can take them to see our emergency dentists so we can restore their smile if necessary.

Eating Disorders

It’s no secret that eating disorders can be devastating to teenagers’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

In fact, nearly 3% of teenagers struggle with an eating disorder. Roughly 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys have resorted to unhealthy measures (e.g., skipping meals, vomiting, taking laxatives) to try to control their weight at least once.

What you may not know is that eating disorders affect teenagers’ dental health as well.

Lack of proper nutrition can cause the gums to bleed, opening the door to infection. Stomach acids from frequent vomiting can change your teeth’s color, shape, length, and strength. 

The National Eating Disorder Association helpline is available for anyone, regardless of their age, who may be struggling with an eating disorder. It’s especially important for preteens and teenagers to seek treatment so they can protect their physical, mental, emotional, and dental health while their bodies are still growing.

Gum Diseases and Oral Cancer

Many preteens and teenagers think they are too young to have to worry about their gum health or their risk for mouth cancer. Unfortunately, smoking can make these seemingly grown-up issues a present reality.

Around 9 out of 10 daily cigarette smokers first tried smoking before the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One out of every 10 middle schoolers and more than one out of every four high schoolers in 2019 reported using electronic cigarettes within the past 30 days.

Whether they’re smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, smoking can seriously damage preteens’ and teenagers’ oral health. It’s important for preteens and teenagers to resist the temptation to start smoking in the first place.

Good Oral Hygiene Habits for Preteens and Teenagers

What can preteens and teenagers do to mitigate these oral health risks? Here are a few good oral health habits they can adopt:

  • Brush twice a day: Your child’s risk for cavities actually increases in their teenage years compared to their risk during childhood. Make sure they continue to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day.
  • Floss daily: If your child hasn’t started flossing yet, now is the perfect opportunity to adopt the habit. Flossing daily gets rid of plaque, which minimizes their risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Practice proper eating habits: As mentioned earlier, proper nutrition is key to protecting your teenager’s oral health. It’s also important to consume sugary foods and drinks sparingly, not on a regular basis.
  • Get a professional teeth cleaning: We recommend all children get their teeth cleaned by our dental hygienists every six months. This allows us to monitor their oral health on a routine basis and respond to any problems early, before they develop into more serious dental issues.

Keep Your Teenager’s Oral Health on Track

Our Hudsonville, MI, pediatric dentists can help your preteen or teenager learn to take ownership of their oral health and practice good oral hygiene. Call Hudsonville Dental Kids today at (616) 209-4024, or contact us online to schedule an appointment.