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Special Dental Concerns for Teens and Adolescents (Part 2)

As our children grow and change, our list of concerns about their health change too. In dentistry as in other medical fields, kids grow out of some problems and into others. As your little ones approach and pass through their teenage years, there are a number of new issues that may begin to affect their oral health. In the previous post, we discussed the need to maintain healthy oral care habits and diet choices, as well as the need for proper mouthguards during contact sports. Here are some more oral health concerns that may crop up during adolescence:


Tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs – There are many reasons to be concerned about your preteen or teenager experimenting with smoking, drinking, and other drug use, and a serious decline in oral health is one of those reasons. Tobacco and marijuana, regardless of the form in which they are used, can stain and discolor teeth; cause halitosis, gingivitis, and periodontal disease; and contribute to the build up of calculus on teeth. Tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use can all cause oral cancer – in fact, 75% of oral cancer cases are directly caused by these substances. 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, and the disease kills at least thirty people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four annually. Many illegal drugs can negatively affect oral health (even if they’re not taken orally) by decreasing salivation, changing the acidity of the mouth, and increasing poor choices related to diet and oral hygiene. Methamphetamines are particularly harmful to the mouth; “meth mouth” refers to the drastically increased tooth decay from such drug use, and other side effects include frequently clenching or grinding the teeth together.

Oral piercings – Body piercing is a common way for teenagers to express their identity and sense of style, but piercings in and around the mouth, including through the tongue, lips, or cheeks, can often be very harmful. All piercings are subject to infection if they’re not cared for properly, but oral piercings are especially at risk because of the amount of bacteria present in the mouth. Piercings can also cause painful swelling, nerve damage, and endocarditis, and they can transmit blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Jewelry in and around the mouth can injure gums, crack or chip teeth, and cause allergic reactions. If the jewelry becomes loose, it can be a choking hazard or pose a risk to the digestive system if it is swallowed. Oral piercings can interfere with eating, drinking, flossing, and brushing teeth, and they can cause problems during dental exams.

Eating disorders – Eating disorders can affect anyone, but they are most prevalent in teenagers and young adults. Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and compulsive overeating can all negatively affect oral health because they often cause people to make extremely poor diet choices, whether that means not consuming enough nutritious foods, consuming too many sugary and acidic foods, or both. A significant change in eating habits can cause salivary glands to swell, gums to bleed, and teeth to become brittle. Additionally, the frequent vomiting that goes along with bulimia can damage teeth due to the increased amount of stomach acid that passes through the mouth. Teeth can become discolored, decay faster, and break more easily.

Tiny Texans is committed to the health and safety of all of our pediatric patients, not just the young ones. If you have any questions or concerns about your Austin children‘s dental care, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


Tiny Texans Pediatric Dentistry

11200 Manchaca Rd.

Bldg. 4, Ste. 1

Austin, TX 78748