Preparing Teens for Braces with Good Oral Health Care Habits - Hardy Pediatric dentistry & Orthodontics

Preparing Teens for Braces with Good Oral Health Care Habits

No More Shots with Laser Dentistry
February 17, 2017
Say Goodbye to Gooey Impressions with Our Digital Impressions System
March 10, 2017
Show all

Published on February 21, 2017, Updated on April 13, 2020

Oral Care Habits - Your Teen

Good oral health care habits are essential during orthodontic treatment. Making sure your teen is prepared to take responsibility for the health of his teeth during treatment can help them succeed. The transition from childhood to adulthood is full of changes–both welcome and unwelcome–and some teens push against these changes.  Braces, the arrival of their third molars and facial changes hit them as they mature. Kids are busy with school, sports, and extracurricular activities that often leave good oral care habits on the shelf gathering dust.  Busy schedules coupled with common teen tendencies to grab food that is quick and easy–often full of sugar–can cause a breeding ground of oral health problems and conditions.  We have tips to help you safeguard your teen’s oral health and help them to establish good long-lasting habits. Read on to discover what these tips are!


The Stats

We appeal to parents everywhere to continue to take an active role in the oral health of their teen or adolescent even though they may seem old enough to do this themselves. Unfortunately, a recent Gallup Youth Survey reported that 34% of teens brush their teeth ONLY once a day and 2% claim that they don’t even brush daily! Couple these staggering numbers with the data that shows that when it comes to flossing, only 13% floss daily and 44% rarely or never floss. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it highly preventable. Learning how you can help your teen succeed at this can impact their oral AND total body wellness for years to come.


Make a Plan

Parents with teens know that to help make real changes in habit or performance you need to have a plan. Teens like to be in charge and they like things to be their idea. They don’t like to be nagged and they like to feel that parents trust them. Here are some tips for persuading your teen that the extra time it takes to take care of his/her teeth now, will be worth it:

  • Explain the consequences of NOT committing to good oral care
  • Keep healthier foods and drinks readily available
  • Enlist technology to help remind them/time them–brushing and oral care apps
  • Schedule and take them to regular dental check-ups at least twice a year
  • Equip them with a portable toothbrush/floss
  • Encourage drinking water or chewing a sugar-free gum after eating
  • Educate them on the risks of substance abuse, oral piercings, and eating disorders
  • Appeal to their interests–good oral health keeps bad breath at bay, and keeps smiles white and appealing
  • Teach them the proper methods for caring for teeth with brackets
  • Keep tools in plain sight

Read on for a little more information about these different topic areas!


Explain the Consequences: Keeping Gum Disease at Bay

Gum disease affects 60 percent of teens by the age of 15.  Part of this influx is because hormonal fluctuations make teens more susceptible to inflammation and infection. Gum disease is most easily avoided by daily flossing and brushing. Educate your teen on the signs of gum disease such as: bleeding while brushing and red, swollen gums. If they start to see these signs, they need to up their oral care practices and may need to schedule an in-office check-up and exam with their dentist.


Keep Healthier Foods and Drinks Readily Available

Teens are always on the go. They often grab what is easy, quick and accessible. To help them reach for healthy foods and drinks, keep your house stocked with them. Keep bottled water, cut vegetables, whole-grain crackers and other sugar-free treats out and ready for convenient snacking. Teens are drinking more soft drinks than ever, both in school and at home. Sugar in sweetened sodas can cause cavities, and acidic flavor additives (found in both unsweetened and sweetened sodas) can also erode and damage tooth enamel.


Enlist Technology to Help Remind Them

We are living in a day and age when there are apps for pretty much everything.  Most teens have phones so it wouldn’t be hard to have them download an app that sounds when they are done brushing or reminds them too!!  Have them set up automatic reminders for oral health care to help get those habits ingrained!


Schedule and Take Them to Regular Dental Check-Ups

Just like adults, teens should visit their dentist at least twice a year. Regular dental visits and cleanings not only help keep teeth bright and shiny (a boost to any teens self-esteem), they can also help catch minor problems before they become worse.


Equip them with a Portable Toothbrush/Floss

One of the best ways to keep a smile healthy and bright is to brush after meals.  Encourage your teen to keep a travel-size toothbrush in a locker or backpack to keep practice good teeth-cleaning habits by brushing after meals and snacks.


Encourage Drinking Water or Chewing Sugar-Free gum After Eating

Chewing sugarless gum with xylitol (a natural sweetener) after meals or snacks can also help cleanse the mouth when your teen is on-the-go or unable to brush after a meal/snack. Drinking water throughout the day can also help cleanse the teeth of excess bacteria and food debris.


Educate Them on the Risks of Substance Abuse, Oral Piercings, and Eating Disorders

Tobacco Use

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you are 3 times as likely to develop periodontal disease  if you some a half a pack of cigarettes a day. Educate your teen on the dangers of tobacco use–in all its forms.  Maintain a tobacco-free home and have discussions with your teen about the importance of not smoking. Dental effects of smoking include:

  • Altered taste buds
  • Oral cancer
  • Bone and tooth loss from periodontal disease
  • Stained teeth
  • Canker sores
  • Bad breath

Eating Disorders

Anorexia, bulimia or similar eating disorders compromise healthy teeth and soft tissues. The effects of eating disorders on your oral health are: teeth erosion, dry mouth, tooth decay, mouth trauma, enlarged salivary glands and sensitive teeth.  Eating disorders are common among teens and dangerous for both total health and oral health. If your teenager has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, seek proper medical and psychological help, but also speak to your family dentistry professional to help protect their oral health, too.

Oral Piercings

Warn against oral piercings or mouth art.  Research has shown that pierced lips and tongues can cause cracked teeth, tissue injury, or lead to nerve damage in the mouth. If your teen is considering an oral piercing, warn them of the risks.


Appeal to Their Interests

Teenagers care about how they look and how their breath smells.  Remind them that attention to good oral health is essential for preventing bad breath and retaining an attractive, bright smile.


Teach them the Proper Methods for Caring for Teeth with Brackets

Teeth that are supporting brackets will need special care. Brackets and wires create obstacles for cleaning teeth and can discourage teens from regular brushing and care.  Your orthodontist can help show your teen how to clean his teeth with braces. Your encouragement is essential to keep demineralization and tooth decay from destroying the health of your teen’s smile and teeth.


Keep Oral Health Care Tools in Plain Sight

One of the best ways to help remind your teen to take care of his/her teeth can be done without you saying a word! Simply leave your teen’s toothbrush and floss where they can see it. This is a case when in a drawer may not be the best place for these items! Keep spares on hand to help when they inevitably get lost!


Call to Schedule a Oral Health Care Consultation

Now is the time to schedule an oral health care consultation to help your teen prepare for a lifetime of optimum oral wellness. Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics can help your child develop a healthy, functional, and attractive smile. To learn more about our children’s dental services or to schedule an appointment, call our Erie office today at 720-887-6003.