When a Smile Isn't Perfect: Talking to Your Teens About How Teeth Develop

Caring for Teens' Teeth

Staying away from tobacco products and piercings will help, but make sure your teenager doesn't ignore the basics of dental hygiene, either. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day, with one of those times occurring before bed. Use toothpaste with fluoride for the best results, and replace your toothbrush every three or four months. Flossing should also be a daily activity, so be sure your teen knows the proper technique for flossing (use a gentle back-and-forth motion). Diet is important, too; foods rich in vitamin C and calcium will help maintain tooth strength.

Regular dental checkups are essential to your teenager's overall health and well-being. Check in with your teen's dentist about his oral health, and if your child is anxious about his teeth, ask the dentist for advice on how to proceed. He may recommend consulting an orthodontist.

Typically, we associate orthodontics with crooked teeth, but the real heart of the matter is something called malocclusion. That's a fancy term for your "bite" being off, which could be caused by crooked teeth or misaligned jaws. There are lots of reasons things might go astray, from genetics to injury.

Whatever the cause, the orthodontist can help you and your teen determine the best course of action to correct the malocclusion. Some options are traditional braces or fixed appliances (which are kind of like non-removable retainers). Others, such as regular retainers and night guards, can be taken in and out by the wearer.

Obviously, the prospect of wearing any kind of orthodontic appliance might not make your teen feel less self-conscious about his smile, but remind him of the long-term benefits and that he is certainly not alone in his plight.

Fixing these problems does have the added benefit of a nicer-looking smile, but the real goal is to improve the overall health of your teen's mouth. As the ADA notes, straight, evenly-spaced teeth have less chance of trapping plaque, thus reducing the chance of tooth decay. That's enough to make both you and your teen smile.

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More Great Links


  • American Dental Association. "Braces and Orthodontics." (Sept. 15, 2011) http://ada.org/3061.aspx?currentTab=1
  • American Dental Association. "Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums." (Sept. 15, 2011) http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx
  • American Dental Association. "Oral Piercing." (Sept. 13, 2011) http://www.ada.org/3090.aspx
  • American Association of Orthodontists. "Glossary." (Sept. 17, 2011) http://www.braces.org/learn/glossary.cfm
  • Braces Review. "History of Orthodontics." (Sept. 14, 2011) http://www.bracesreview.com/history-of-orthodontics.html
  • WebMD. "Wisdom Teeth: Impaction, Removal, Function, and More." March 15, 2009. (Sept. 14, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/wisdom-teeth

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