Five Choices That May Cause Dental Issues During Adolescence

Dealing with the trials and tribulations of adolescence is difficult enough without having to be concerned about dental issues. Kids today are faced with entirely different lifestyle choices than those their parents dealt with, many of which can negatively affect a teenager's oral health. For instance, did you know that tongue piercing, smoking and drinking may cause problems that could require dental work later on? Playing sports without the use of a mouth guard, ignoring an eating disorder or neglecting impacted wisdom teeth may also cause dental problems.

Dental Concerns During the Teenage Years

Talk to your teenagers about issues facing many adolescents, and how the wrong decisions might affect his or her oral health. Here are five choices to rethink:

1. Oral Piercings

A pierced tongue that is embellished with oral jewelry might seem cool to your teenager, but it could land him or her in the dentist's chair. Tongue splitting may pose an even greater risk. Did you know that having a tongue pierced or "split" is more risky than piercing the ears?

The mouth is home to naturally occurring bacteria. Because of this, there is a higher risk for infection. Besides the risk of infection, respiratory issues may occur. If the tongue swells during infection, breathing may become obstructed.

The use of mouth jewelry may also present problems. The metal from the jewelry could wear away the tooth enamel or possibly fracture a tooth.

2. Smoking and Drinking

If your child is experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol, it could be affecting his or her overall health. What you might not have considered is that it may also be affecting your child's permanent teeth. Once teeth become stained by tobacco use, it can be difficult to effectively remove those stains without expensive dental treatment. In addition, alcohol consumption may contribute to tooth erosion.

Drinking and smoking may also cause mouth and gum irritation, especially during adolescence when wisdom teeth are erupting. Alcohol and tobacco are contributors to tooth decay, and may even increase one's risk of oral cancer. All of these aspects are reasons to speak with your teenager about the effects of tobacco and alcohol.

3. Not Using a Mouth Guard When Playing Sports

Many children are involved in sports during their adolescent years. If your teens participate in sports such as soccer, basketball, football and baseball, it's important for them to use a mouth guard. Without the use of this device, permanent injury to the teeth may occur during impact. Teeth may become broken or knocked out, and this may require extensive dental work.

Your child may purchase a ready-to-wear mouth guard or have one custom made. The advantage of having a mouth guard custom fit by a dentist is that it is created for the unique shape of your child's mouth. A sure fit provides the best protection. Consider this option if your child is a serious athlete.

4. Ignoring an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders such as bulimia are most prevalent during teenage years. A child with this disorder may binge eat, then force himself to regurgitate soon after. Causes of the disorder are not entirely known, although many sufferers seem to have a poor self body image.

A bulimic child is likely to hide the symptoms or deny they exist. Doing so may cause long-term health risks, some of which may affect the child's oral health. Bulimia may cause enamel erosion to the teeth due to the self-induced regurgitation that is often experienced with this disorder. If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, it's imperative to seek professional help.

5. Neglecting Impacted Wisdom Teeth

By the time your child reaches adolescence, he or she will most likely have a full set of permanent teeth. Sooner or later, the wisdom teeth will erupt, and these third molars may need to be removed. When teeth are overcrowded and there is little room for the newly erupting wisdom teeth to grow, the molars may become impacted.

If your child has a fear of the dentist or simply neglects to inform you of a problem with newly developed wisdom teeth, complications could arise. One such complication could be the development of a fluid-filled cyst surrounding the jawbone. This may occur from the impacted teeth. Once infected, the cyst will need to be drained, and tissue may have to be removed.

To avoid any of these issues, encourage communication with your child. In addition, have your adolescent child visit the dentist regularly for periodic examinations.