You’ve reached that magical age – no longer a kid but not yet confined by adult responsibilities. The years between 12 and 20 are a great time to explore who you are and who you want to become. You’ll be making some important decisions in situations where your parents and teachers aren’t there to guide you. You’ll only get one set of adult teeth to give you a gorgeous smile and a lifetime of fulfilling meals. I urge Chicago teens to think about the long term impact of dental care.
You are discovering romance, and interviewing for summer jobs and college admission. There will probably no point in your life when pleasant breath and white teeth are more important to those adventures. If you are college bound, you may also be concerned about missing classroom time for dental appointments.
Daily hygiene goes a long way toward preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Brush after eating, or at least in the morning and before bed. Use a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste in a gentle circular motion. If you can’t brush right after eating, swish with some plain water and chew a piece of sugarless gum with xylitol. That removes some of the food particles and reduces mouth acids. Be sure to floss before bedtime – you’ll get your teeth about 30 percent cleaner.
Your schedule gets busier as you approach adulthood, but don’t miss your twice-a-year check-ups. They give us a chance to get your teeth extra clean, watch for potential problems, and most importantly answer your questions honestly and candidly.
Let’s talk tobacco. Every single form of tobacco, including smokeless, is detrimental to the soft tissues in your mouth and to your teeth. Tobacco is a leading factor in gum disease (the primary cause of tooth loss in adults), and oral cancers. It stains your teeth and fouls your breath. It also causes premature facial aging and is linked to many other health problems. If you don’t form the habit now, you’ll never need to break it.
Alcohol, in moderation, is accepted in adulthood – but not in your teens. And it’s not great for your teeth. Red wine stains teeth and white wine is acidic, contributing to erosion of tooth enamel. The starch in beer turns to sugary tooth decay. Hard liquor is probably going to convince you to crash before you’ve brushed and flossed.
You’ve been hearing it since grade school, but it’s true. There’s no place for drugs in a healthy life. Don’t believe drugs harm your smile? Just go to Google Images and search on “drugs and teeth” or “meth mouth.”
If I sound passionate about dental care for Chicago teens, it’s because I am. I genuinely want to see you blossom into an adult with the brightest possible future. I’ve seen first hand how a healthy mouth can help.