Adolescent-Specific Questions

Q. Can my child or teenager bleach their teeth?

Most research on bleaching has been done on adults, with only a small amount of published research on bleaching young teeth.  Full-arch cosmetic bleaching should be done only after all permanent teeth are erupted, and only under the supervision and recommendation of our office.  We can discuss the different whitening options for your teenager, as well as the benefits and side effects, to help you make an informed decision.

Q. Beware of soft drinks (sports drinks, soda, and energy drinks)!

Due to the high sugar content and acid in soft drinks, they have erosive potential with the ability to dissolve enamel.  Frequent consumption of these carbonated or non-carbonated beverages not only destroys teeth and increases risk of cavities, but they also have a negative impact on overall health.  Replacing milk and water in a healthy diet with sugary beverages leads to childhood obesity, future risks of osteoporosis, and consumption of significant amounts of caffeine.  Even “sugar-free” versions of these soft drinks are damaging to teeth and bones.

Children should avoid sports drinks and energy drinks and instead hydrate with water before, during, and after sports.  If these types of drinks are consumed:
  • Reduce the frequency and contact time with the teeth.
  • Swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth.
  • Seek advice from our office on more healthy alternatives to soft drinks!

Q. Tongue and oral piercing – is it safe?

pierced-tongueIt is not surprising to see young adults with pierced tongues, lips, or cheeks, but you may be surprised to know just how dangerous these piercings can be.

There are many risks involved with oral piercings:  chipped or cracked teeth, metal allergies, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscesses, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums, and scar tissue formation.  Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing.  An infection from a tongue ring can cause enough swelling to close off the airway!
Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, redness, and increased flow of saliva.  Uncontrollable bleeding or nerve damage can result if a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the piercing needle.
So follow the advice of the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry…do your mouth a favor and skip the jewelry!

Q. Tobacco – what you don’t know can kill you!

Tobacco is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths in the world and kills up to half of its users.  Tobacco use starts before the age of 19 for 90% of adult smokers.  In fact, most studies show that those who do not use tobacco during the teen years will never use it.  Teens that use tobacco are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, and engage in other high-risk behaviors.  The effects of smoking are not only devastating for the user, as secondhand smoke exposure imposes significant risks as well.  Heart disease and lung cancer are increased up to 30% in nonsmokers who inhale secondhand smoke.

Smokeless tobacco (also called spit, chew, or snuff) is often used by teens who mistakenly believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking.  Studies show that smokeless tobacco may be more addictive than cigarettes and more difficult to quit.  One can of snuff delivers as much nicotine as three packages of cigarettes!  In the course of just a few months, smokeless tobacco can cause periodontal lesions and the beginning stages of oral cancer.
If your child is a tobacco user, you should watch for the following that could be early signs of oral cancer:
  • Sores that will not heal
  • White or red patches on the lips, gums, or tongue
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue, or a change in the way the teeth fit together.
Because the early signs of oral cancer are usually not painful, people often ignore them.  A cancerous lesion can look much like a common canker sore, and if not treated early can require extensive, disfiguring surgery.  Early detection can mean the difference between life and death.
Help your child or teen avoid tobacco in any form.  If your child has experimented with tobacco products, please inform us.  We can offer educational materials and counseling, as well as examine for oral signs and changes associated with tobacco use.