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Teens teeth

Why is a healthy smile important?

An attractive and healthy smile is important when meeting people and making friends. And it can boost your confidence and help you feel good about yourself.

If you don't look after your teeth and gums properly you could suffer from a number of different conditions that will make you stand out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons:

  •   bad breath
  •   stained teeth
  •   tooth decay
  •   gum disease
  •   tooth loss
  •   dental erosion.

Why is a healthy diet important for my oral health?

Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour. This is because the sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque and produces harmful acids. Plaque is a build-up of bacteria which forms on your teeth.

It is better to have three or four meals a day rather than lots of snacks.


What is dental erosion?

Dental erosion is the gradual loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attacks. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth. If it is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed and your teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.


SNACKS

Avoid sugary snacks. If you need to eat between meals try these foods instead:

  •   plain popcorn
  •   nuts
  •   cheese
  •   breadsticks
  •   plain yogurt
  •   rice cakes
  •   unsweetened cereal
  •   plain bagels
  •   fresh soup
  •   raw vegetable pieces
  •   fresh fruit.

What effects will smoking, alcohol or taking drugs have on my oral health?

Smoking can cause tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss and - more seriously - mouth cancer. Smoking is also one of the main causes of bad breath.

Alcoholic drinks can also cause mouth cancer. If you smoke and drink you are more at risk.

Alcohol can also increase the risk of tooth decay and erosion. Some alcoholic drinks have a lot of sugar in them, and some mixed drinks may contain acids. So they can cause decay or dental erosion if you drink them often and in large amounts.

Illegal drugs can lead to a range of health problems. Smoking cannabis can have the same effects as smoking tobacco. Other drugs can cause a dry mouth and increase the risk of erosion, decay, gum disease and bad breath. Drugs can also cause you to grind your teeth, which can cause headaches and other problems.


How do I look?

Some people are unhappy with how their teeth look and feel self-conscious smiling in photos or in social situations. But you can have treatment to correct any problems.


How can I improve my smile?

An orthodontic appliance (‘brace') will straighten or move your teeth to improve their appearance and the way they work. It can also help to improve the long-term health of your teeth, gums and jaw joints by spreading the biting pressure over all the teeth.

There are many different types of brace and your dental team or orthodontist will be able to talk to you about what is best for you.


How long will I need to wear a brace?

It depends on how severe the problem is, and it may take anything from a few months to two-and-a-half years. However, most people can be treated in one to two years.


What is tooth jewellery?

Tooth jewellery involves sticking small jewels onto the teeth using dental cement. They should be fitted by a dentist, who can also easily remove them if necessary.

It is important to keep the area around the jewel clean, as plaque can easily build up around it and you will be more likely to get tooth decay.


What are the dangers of mouth piercing?
  •   infection
  •   the surrounding tissues can become inflamed
  •   blood infections
  •   the tongue can swell
  •   teeth can chip and break
  •   it can be difficult to talk, eat and swallow
  •   it is difficult to keep your mouth clean
  •   dental treatment can be difficult.

How can I protect my teeth when playing sports?

A mouthguard will help protect you against broken and damaged teeth, and even a broken or dislocated jaw.

It is important to wear a professionally made mouthguard whenever you play any sport that involves contact or moving objects.

Ask your dental team about a mouthguard. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind.


Top tips for teens
  •   Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste. Use a toothbrush with a small- to medium-sized brush head with soft to medium bristles, and brush for two minutes.
  •   Have sugary food and drinks just at mealtimes.
  •   Visit your dental team at least once a year, or as often as they recommend.
  •   Clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day, to help remove plaque and food from between your teeth.
  •   Use a mouthwash to freshen your breath and kill bacteria.
  •   Use a straw if you have fizzy drinks, as this helps the drink to go to the back of your mouth and reduces the number of acid attacks on your teeth.
  •   Wait for at least one hour after eating or drinking anything acidic before you brush your teeth.
  •   Chew sugar-free gum after eating to help make more saliva and cancel out the acids which form in your mouth after eating.