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What do I need to know about my teen's teeth?

As your child enters her teen years, her oral healthcare needs begin to change. And she may begin to adopt dietary and lifestyle habits that increase the risk for negative oral care outcomes.

To help ensure your teen develops good dietary and lifestyle habits that will help support healthy, beautiful teeth, it's time to educate both yourself and your teen about the risks unique to teen teeth, such as these:
  • More cavities. Teens have higher rates of cavities compared with younger kids. Dental experts suspect this may be due in part to teens' preference for soft drinks and starchy snack foods like cookies, candy and pizza. These foods produce acids in the mouth that can erode tooth enamel over time, leaving the teeth much more vulnerable to the formation of cavities. The good news is that minimizing these foods and adopting an overall healthy diet may curb the risk of dental caries.
  • Periodontal disease. Some periodontal diseases -- such as gingivitis -- often begin in the teen years or are more common in teens than in younger children. Left untreated, gingivitis and other types of periodontal diseases can permanently damage gum tissue, even as early as adolescence and early adulthood. But brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, along with getting twice-yearly dental cleanings, may help prevent these problems.
  • Bad breath: This often results from less-than-ideal brushing and flossing habits or an unhealthy diet. Drinking too little water also may play a role. Talk with your teen's dentist about additional breath-freshening hygiene tips.
  • Crooked teeth: As kids' mouths grow into their adult size and they trade first teeth for adult teeth, misaligned or overcrowded teeth can become a common problem. And misaligned teeth do more than potentially affect self-image and self-esteem. If severe enough, misalignment could cause excess wear and tear of tooth enamel and could increase the risk of jaw problems, cavities or periodontal disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.