A clean mouth depends heavily on your dental hygiene, which relies on good dental care habits that keep your teeth and gums free of debris and bacteria that can cause plaque, gum disease, and cavities. People who do not regularly practice good oral hygiene may develop any of these problems and can even begin to lose their teeth! When you’re a teen, good dental hygiene is important to prevent severe tooth decay that not only negatively affects your appearance but can hurt your self-confidence and may even cause serious health problems. In addition, halitosis, or bad breath, is yet another embarrassing problem that can develop when you don’t properly care for your teeth. By the time a person enters high school, they’ve often developed habits that are either good or bad in terms of dental health. Fortunately, it isn’t too late to turn poor dental hygiene habits around.
Oral Hygiene Basics
Basic dental hygiene includes brushing your teeth twice a day. Generally, this is done in the morning after eating breakfast and before going to bed in the evening. For the most effective results, brush with fluoride toothpaste that has the seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA), and use a clean toothbrush that is replaced every three to four months. Because food particles can get between teeth, it is important to floss at least once a day to prevent this debris from helping plaque to form. Chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol and rinsing out your mouth between meals are also important steps for a healthy mouth.
Eating the Right Foods
Knowing which are the best and worst foods for your teeth can be as crucial to your dental health as brushing and flossing. Foods and drinks that are acidic, such as orange juice, or high in sugar, such as soda, can feed bacteria that eat away at enamel and lead to tooth decay. In addition to sweet foods such as cookies, you should avoid eating foods that are sticky as much as possible, as they can be difficult to remove while brushing. Starchy, crunchy foods also make it difficult to thoroughly practice good dental hygiene, as they can easily get trapped between teeth. Instead, eat a nutritious diet of lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains. When it comes to drinks, few things compare to clean, fresh water for good dental health.
Braces and Dental Hygiene
Braces are a common fact of life for many teens living in the U.S. The goal of wearing braces is to straighten your teeth so you’ll have a nicer smile. Unfortunately, a person with poor dental hygiene is at a greater risk for tooth decay if they have braces, as braces make it more difficult to thoroughly clean your teeth and gums. For this reason, it is as important as ever to know how to properly care for braces and brush your teeth with them on. To brush teeth with braces, begin by rinsing away or loosening stuck-on food or debris. You should then brush along the gum line, above and below each bracket, taking care to be thorough and do a good job. Teens wearing braces can use an orthodontic floss threader and waxed floss to make it easier to floss daily.
Dental Hygiene and Oral Piercings
Oral piercings are a popular form of self-expression and style for many teens. Although they are commonly worn in the tongue or lip, they can still affect your dental health. When a person eats, food debris can get caught in a tongue piercing, resulting in bacterial growth. These particles of food, if not removed, can result in bad breath either due to rotting of the debris or an infection. To keep your teeth clean as well as the area around your piercing, brush and floss as normal and rinse your mouth out well after each meal. The jewelry itself should be removed and cleaned regularly.
Whether you’re a teen, a child, or an adult, an important part of taking care of your teeth is to have routine dental exams. Every six months, you should see a dentist to have your teeth cleaned and checked for cavities or gum disease. Dental X-rays will be taken if necessary, and a dentist or hygienist will make suggestions to help you keep your teeth healthy. Depending on whether there is decay, they may also review any concerns or areas where your dental hygiene habits can be improved. These examinations are a good opportunity for teens to go over brushing and flossing techniques.