At this time in a youngster's life it can be very difficult to keep up with just about everything not to mention their dental care. The effort put into keeping teeth and gums healthy can really get off track at this time.
One of the things that may help at this age is it is the time when looks become important. A teen wanting to be attractive can be an advantage for you to use as a tool to encourage the ongoing dental hygiene routine. The fortunate teen that doesn't need braces at this point is still at risk for other problems that seem to emerge at this time of life. Parents need all the moral support they can get and if the relationship has been built with a family dental team, they can provide some of that assistance. There are no shortcuts in a good hygiene regimen. Often seen at this age are that teens rely on mouthwash as a substitute for cleaning.
Unfortunately this may be a time when some unhealthy habits are encouraged by peers. Tobacco use possibly being the most prevalent. It may be of help to point out that the physical effects of smoking, oral and otherwise, will not show up until the habit is well established to the point of addiction. Maybe just some straight talk about not even giving tobacco the chance to take away the control we all have over our health would be helpful. Anti-smoking sites can be found online and possibly some of the graphic examples could help stimulate dialog but be aware that some are very graphic.
Sometimes the rites of passage from childhood to adult have side effect that will last a lifetime. Smoking being one, some others are Anorexia and Bulimia. Damage to teeth seems fairly insignificant when put up against the other devastating side effects of these terrible diseases but it is another area in which your family dental team can help you monitor your families' health. Teeth will soon show the effects of Bulimia Nervosa, in fact 26% of Bulimia cases are first diagnosed by dentists.
Another subject that may arise at this time is body piercing. Teens wanting to show their individuality or even rebellion may decide that tongue piercing is a way to do this. The list is long on why this is a bad idea, not the least of which is that the piercing site is very hard to keep clean and infection free. Other reasons include chipped teeth, site bleeding and gum damage. There is a very good web page on this subject that covers it well and very simply. Parents might want to take a look at it with their teens who want to have the piercing done it is: http://www.drhendry.ca/InfoAndLinks/TonguePiercing/Piercing.html
These very unsettling subjects are not meant to create panic in parents but to illustrate how a family dental team is indispensable when it comes to your families' health. These subjects also make getting back to the discussion of braces a bit of a relief.
If your child or teen is referred to an orthodontist for a malocclusion correction, oral care is obviously going to be more complicated than life without braces. Your orthodontist and your family dentist can work as a team to be sure that optimum results are achieved. Parents and teens certainly don't want to put the time, effort and expense into braces or retainers and end up with other problems in the long run. Gum care and all around oral hygiene are essential. While there is no substitute for brushing and flossing there are products on the market that can be very handy. The orthodontist will undoubtedly show the patient how to use an interproximal brush, commonly called a proxy brush or Christmas tree brush, to clean under braces. Possibly patients will want to look into getting a Waterpik TM or Sonicare TM Toothbrush to help with the process of cleaning teeth with braces on them. It is not uncommon for dentists to see very expensive corrective work surrounded by gums that will not sustain healthy teeth, even if they do come out straight, due to lack of maintenance, so this extra care is essential. Swishing with room temperature salt water can help mild soreness or inflammation of mouth or gums. It's an old fashioned remedy that still is prescribed today.
From the eruption of the twelve year molars to the eruption of the wisdom teeth can be a challenge. It's a good time to have the help and advice of professionals who see the common mistakes everyday. Things the team can remind your teen that are all too often seen are:
– Not to rely on short cuts, most often mouth wash, in substitute for a dental hygiene routine.
– The damage smoking can and will do to teeth and gums not to mention over all health.
– Tongue piercing may not be worth the risks involved and the extra hassle to keep infection from becoming a factor.
– There is a need to talk to parents and get help when peer and societal pressure begins to threaten their self esteem or well being.
– Oral hygiene and extra care when braces are needed is going to be more involved than care for teeth without braces but it will be well worth the effort in the end.