Great Smiles of NJ - March 2020

MARCH 2020



National Teenager Day is coming up on March 21, so I want to take a minute to talk about teens — a group often left out of the oral health conversation. Every parent knows how important it is to bring their child to the dentist and teach them good brushing and flossing habits when they’re little. But sometimes, when their sweet little kids grow up into teenagers, it’s harder to make their dental health a priority. That’s totally understandable! As a dentist, I know how important it is for teenagers to pay close attention to what’s going on in their mouths, but as a mom of two teens, I also know just how hard it can be to get through to kids at that age. Still, it’s important that you stay aware of what’s going on in your teen’s mouth and to try to help them understand it, too. If you communicate now, they’ll be a lot more likely to build healthy habits for life! Here are a few things to remember: Their hygiene priorities are shifting, and that’s a good thing! Between life transitions, hormone changes, and an increasing number of after-school activities, teenagers have a lot on their plates. That can make life harder in some ways, but it can also be a good thing! Often, younger kids don’t care much about their appearance, but once they hit their teen years, they have a change of heart. I swear, for a few years I was lucky if I could get my 13-year-old son, Matthew, to shower and put on deodorant, never mind to floss daily, but now that he’s a teenager, he’s

finally starting to care and do those things on his own. If your kid child is getting concerned about tartar buildup on their teeth and the brightness of their smile, this can be a great time to encourage their interest in hygiene. Try getting them their own tools — like an electric toothbrush, a tongue scraper, or special floss — and helping them form healthy habits. You could even suggest that they start making their own dental appointments so that they’re prepared to do it when they head off to college. Hormones are changing their saliva profile (yes, really). Puberty causes acne, growth spurts, and moodiness. But did you know that hormone changes also impact your teen’s mouth? During puberty, the hormones and proteins in saliva change, and that may put teenagers at risk of getting cavities, which is why it’s so important for them to floss, brush, and pay attention to how much sleep they’re getting and what they’re eating and drinking. This can be tricky since both high school and college bring changes in routine that can interfere with your teen's sleeping habits and tempt them with sugary snacks. In my own house, a schedule shake-up came when my 16-year-old daughter, Katie, aged out of her afternoon dance class and moved up to the more advanced night class. She’s coming home later now, which makes it easier for her to forget to brush before bed. If you’re in a similar

All smiles after a hip hop dance class!

situation, try offering reminders and helping your kids develop a new nightly routine. They have a higher risk of jaw (TMJ) problems. Unfortunately, hormonal changes can also put your teenager at an increased risk of jaw disorders and airway problems. To lower their risk of jaw disorders, make sure your teen is getting plenty of sleep and has regular dental appointments to check on their jaw and airway development. Jaw locks increase in frequency during teenage years. If your teen experiences difficulty opening or moving their jaws, including locked jaws, I offer a procedure to open up the jaws, which may prevent the need for jaw surgery. If you have any questions about teen dental health, I can help! Not only do I have years of experience caring for teens in my practice, but I also have firsthand experience as a mom. I am here to help you and your child achieve the best dental health possible. To your great smiles and better health,

–Dr. Michelle Wedd le

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