Taking Care of Your Teeth
Taking care of your teeth can give you the confidence to smile big in photos and snuggle with your significant other (no worrying about bad breath!). But your dental health is about way more than just your teeth. It affects your whole body! Take care of your teeth and gums, and they’ll help you look and feel great. Neglect them, and you can wind up with bad breath, pain from cavities, gum disease or even an infection in your mouth.
Taking Care of Your Teeth Every Day
- Brush your teeth the right way. Use fluoride toothpaste to brush for two minutes, twice a day, every day. This fights plaque and keeps your gums healthy!
- Floss once a day to help prevent cavities. Check out this video from the American Dental Association to learn how to do it right.
- Replace your toothbrush every 2-3 months.
- Did you know there’s a right way to brush your teeth so you don’t hurt your gums? Check out this video from the American Dental Association to make sure you’re doing it right.
In addition to daily care, it’s important to visit the dentist every 6 months for a professional cleaning and cavity check.
7 Teen Dental Issues and How to Handle Them
1. Bad breath
Dragon breath is nasty but usually harmless. Bad breath often happens when there’s food left in your mouth, i.e. you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, especially after you eat strong-smelling food like garlic, onions or coffee. Smoking and smokeless tobacco stain your teeth and give you bad breath and cause a long list of health problems. Sometimes gum disease or medical conditions like a sinus infection, gastric reflux, or diabetes can cause bad breath. Brush your tongue as well as your teeth, floss, use mouthwash, quit smoking, and visit a dentist regularly to get rid of bad breath. If it persists, see your health care provider.
2. Wisdom teeth
Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth come in later than the rest of your teeth, usually when you’re 17-21 years old. Sometimes they grow in crooked or are trapped in your jaw or under your gums. When that happens, your dentist may say they are impacted. Your dentist may remove them to keep you from having pain, infection, or damage to your other teeth. See a dentist regularly to find out how well your wisdom teeth are erupting and if or when you need to get them out.
In addition to causing bad breath, smoking and any other tobacco products can stain your teeth and tongue. Smoking can dull your senses of taste and smell, slow healing in your mouth, and cause gum disease and oral cancer. For help with quitting smoking, see your health care provider or visit smokefree.gov.
4. Crooked teeth
A bad bite or teeth that are out of alignment may make you prone to cavities or gum disease. Braces can help make your teeth straighter and improve your dental health. They come in many different styles now, from clear retainers to plastic or traditional metal braces. Your dentist can recommend which style would work best for you.
Don’t have dental insurance? Call a dental school in your area and ask if they do braces for a discounted fee. If you are on Medicaid, check with your state’s Medicaid office for details. If your case is deemed medically necessary, Medicaid may cover it up to a certain age. Talk to a local social services agency to find out if there are government programs that can help you. There are also dental charities like Smiles for a Lifetime Foundation and Smiles Change Lives which may help you find orthodontic treatment for free.
5. Oral piercings
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Piercing your lips or tongue can result in an infection or swelling. Even worse, you could get a systemic infection like hepatitis. If you get pierced, it’s really important to follow the aftercare instructions. Better yet, pierce a part of your body that has fewer bacteria, like your ear or eyebrow.
6. Eating disorders
Like the rest of your body, your teeth suffer if you have an eating disorder. If you’re not getting proper nutrition, your gums may bleed easily. You may have chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can eat away at tooth enamel because of the strong stomach acid. If you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, there are steps you can take to limit the damage to your teeth. But the most important thing you can do is get help for your eating disorder. Talk to your doctor if you’re not yet getting treatment, and ask for help. Your doctor can help you and your family put a plan in place for treatment. If you live in NYC, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center provides free, comprehensive health care for young people. You can see an adolescent health specialist, a nutritionist, and a mental health provider at our Center to get the care you need.
7. Protection playing sports
If you play contact sports, protect your teeth with a mouth guard (or mouth protector). Many sporting goods stores and drug stores have boil-and-bite mouth protectors, which are much less expensive than custom ones from the dentist.
Get more tips on taking care of your teeth from our blog.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.