by Dr. Janhavi Rane, DDS
It’s our responsibility as adults to make sure our children receive oral healthcare periodically just like annual physicals. Adolescents in particular may face oral health problems which require them to visit a dentist or other healthcare professional in the middle of their school work load. Irregular teeth growth is a common problem and adolescents with braces are a common sight. Another problem is wisdom teeth extraction or the removal of the third molar. Dental cavities are yet another common problem in adolescents. Before your child goes back to school or college you may want to take care of these issues so they don’t interrupt the school year.
Orthodontics is a specialty in dentistry which deals with correction, development and prevention of irregular teeth, jaw and bite. If a general dentist sees these abnormalities in the adolescent, he/she will refer the patient to an orthodontist. The American Dental Association suggests that every adolescent above the age of seven should get an orthodontic evaluation done. Problems which require orthodontic treatment are crowded or crooked teeth, extra teeth, missing teeth, under-bite, overbite, jaw joint disorder, and incorrect or misaligned jaw position. When adolescents wear braces they have to take precautions in order to avoid any more oral health complications. The most important precautionary measure is to brush the teeth regularly after every meal. Since the food can be easily lodged in braces, it is a good idea to brush carefully with soft bristles toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and floss as often as possible. Food stuffs which are sticky or hard like caramel, chewy candy, popcorn, and nuts should be avoided as they are difficult to remove and a cleaning must be done by the hygienist or general dentist, every three to six months.
Wisdom teeth or third molars can grow usually from age fifteen to twenty five. These teeth can cause problem, because most of mouths are too small to accommodate them. If the wisdom tooth has place to grow, without affecting other teeth, they can be left to themselves. But if the adolescent experiences pain, facial swelling, mouth infection and gum-line swelling, then they should be extracted immediately. They can also destroy the second molars and affect other teeth. A general dentist or an oral surgeon can perform wisdom tooth surgery in the office using local anesthesia or sedation.
Tooth decay (cavities) is also 5 times more common in adolescents than asthma. Dietary sugar and mouth bacteria form an acid which eats away minerals within the tooth, forming a cavity. The biggest prevention against cavities is brushing teeth twice a day and even better, after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristle toothbrush. Carbonated drinks and sugary food must be avoided. Intake of fluoridated water also helps a lot or fluoride supplements can be used as replacement.
While dental cavities only affect the tooth, periodontal or gum disease is devastating affecting the bones and gums that surround the tooth. A dentist specializing in the treatment of periodontal disease is known as a Periodontist. The disease should not be taken lightly and if it’s left untreated it can spread and affect the bones under the teeth which eventually making the teeth loose and fall out. According to statistics plaque buildup is the main cause of gum related diseases. Other possible causes include: Genetics, poor oral hygiene, food getting stuck too frequently in the gums, mouth breathing, low nutrient or vitamin c deficient diet, smoking, diabetes, autoimmune/systemic disease, changes in hormone levels, certain medications and constant teeth grinding. According to statistics nearly 66 percent young adult population suffers from periodontal disease. There are various symptoms and it could differ from one adolescent to the other which may include swollen, tender, and red gums; bleeding of gums during brushing or flossing, receding gums; constant odorous breath; loose teeth and change in alignment of jaw and bite. Periodontal disease can be diagnosed after reviewing the complete medical history, physical examination of the teenager’s mouth and x-rays. The treatment usually involves plaque removal, medication and in worse cases a surgery.
At Rane’s Dental Offices we have three General Dentists, an Orthodontist, and a Periodontist in house to deal with most of the above adolescent oral health issues and more. This does not mean that you forget your younger kids’ mouths. All children would benefit from starting the school year in good health!
Rane’s Exclusively Yours Dental (All Phases of Dentistry for Children and Adults), Plainsboro Shopping Center (Beside Romeo’s Restaurant), 10 Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro. 609-275-1777. www.ranesdental.com
Rane’s Dental Aesthetics (Orthodontics and Periodontics), New Plainsboro Village Center (Beside 1st Constitution Bank), 11 Schalks Crossing Road, Plainsboro. 609-750-1666. www.ranesorthoperio.com.