Is Tooth-Whitening Recommended For Children & Teens?

Tooth Whitening for Kids
Public awareness of tooth-whitening procedures and products has grown significantly in the past few years.  The number of questions our patients and their parents ask about tooth-whitening has also increased especially among parents concerned about their child’s self image and older adolescents/teens who want to look their best.  But are these methods and procedures safe for young mouths?  Let’s look at a few guidelines.

The research is limited.

First, it’s important to understand that research surrounding tooth-whitening is limited for children.  Most studies have only involved adults, so a clear picture of any short or long term side effects of tooth whitening is lacking.  The most recent policy update from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is from 2009.

Primary teeth generally do not need treatment.

For the youngest of our patients, any stains or discoloration in primary, or baby teeth, isn’t usually something we would treat.  Because these teeth are temporary, they are likely to be preplaced by white permanent teeth very soon.  Of course, we’re happy to evaluate any situation you might be concerned with.  It’s also a good idea to understand the cause of any discoloration to eliminate issues that may extend beyond cosmetic concerns.

Whitening toothpaste can be too abrasive for children.

Tooth –whitening toothpaste usually works by including a mild abrasive that helps to remove surface stains. In some instances, this can cause tooth sensitivity because tooth enamel may be “scrubbed” away, exposing tiny holes in the dentin beneath.  These toothpastes are often too hard on young mouths and should be avoided.  For teenagers, always use toothpaste that’s ADA approved and stop using after any signs of tooth sensitivity.

Do you think a procedure may be necessary?  Ask us!

We would love to evaluate your child’s teeth to identify the cause of discoloration and to discuss possible treatment options now or in the future.  We highly encourage you to reach out to our office before using any at-home treatments.

6 Ways to Transition Teens to Caring for Their Own Oral Health

Teens and cavities
As children become more independent, parents often have less direct influence over their child’s oral care. The transition to adolescence means that schedules become more crowded and teens are left with more responsibility in caring for their own teeth.  Too often, this results in first-time cavities and missed opportunities to catch dental issues when they are just beginning and are easiest to treat.  Here are 6 guidelines to make certain your child’s dental care remains a priority through their teenage years.

1. Keep dental supplies handy.

What better motivation do any of us have to brush than a new toothbrush?  Teens may be independent, but they aren’t buying their own dental supplies.  Be sure there’s plenty of toothpaste, floss and mouth rinse handy.

2. Get an orthodontic consultation.

Kids (and adults) get braces at all ages, but it’s certainly most common during the teenage years. As they have grown rapidly, so have their facial muscles and bones. We can guide you in the right direction and provide advice about your teen’s specific needs.  You may be surprised at the number of options that are now available.

3. Purchase less junk food.

You can’t always control what your teens buy when they aren’t with you.  But you can make certain that your refrigerator and pantry aren’t well stocked with sugary drinks and your pantry isn’t full of junk food.  Keeping your own purchase of unhealthy foods to a minimum will mean that they are less available when your kids want to grab a quick drink.

4. Play to their vanity!

Teenages are more aware of their looks than at any time in their lives.  Use this to your advantage by stressing how attractive a healthy smile can be.  It truly is one of the primary reasons each of us cares for our teeth…white, healthy teeth make us all look good!

5. Make them use mouthguards.

Adolescents are more active than ever with sports that can be dangerous to still-growing mouths.  Be sure your teen wears a mouthgaurd whenever possible, especially in teen sports where contact is common.  Mouth injuries caused by sports are some of the most common we see on a regular basis.

6. Don’t neglect regular checkups.

We know that your family is busy, even more now that each member is “doing their own thing”.  And while it can be easy to miss scheduled dental visits, you shouldn’t neglect to do so. Even though adolescents have bigger bodies than they used to, they are still kids.  It’s going to remain your job to stay on top of dental appointments. Give us a call today and help your teens transition into adulthood knowing that dental care is a priority.

E-cigarettes, Teenagers and Oral Health

e-cigs and teens
More teenagers have tried Electronic Cigarettes than adults, with statistics showing as many as 10% of high school students having tried the latest trend in smoking compared with only 2.7% of adults. E-cig use has exploded in the past few years, and many people claim to have stopped smoking traditional cigarettes because of them.  While many users also believe e-cigarettes to be safer than regular cigarettes, no definitive studies have proven that they are a safe alternative.

When looking at e-cigarettes and oral health, especially in relation to teenagers, it’s important to remember that an e-cigarette is still primarily a nicotine delivery device and there’s little debate as to the effects of nicotine on the body.

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a stimulant that, when inhaled, is absorbed by the lungs into the blood stream and passed within seconds to the brain.  As a drug, nicotine works by both stimulating the user through low doses and relaxing the user in higher concentrations.   As evidenced by the large number of people addicted to tobacco products, nicotine is seen as one of the most addictive drugs available.  Interestingly, nicotine has a history of use as an insecticide but isn’t commonly used today because of it’s danger to animals and people.

How does nicotine harm oral health?

Nicotine is a chemical compound known for it’s vasoconstrictor properties, which means that it works by narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow throughout the body.  When blood flow is frequently reduced to the gums, there is a dramatic increase in the likelihood of periodontal (gum) disease.  Less blood delivered to the gums means less oxygen and fewer nutrients.  This can result in symptoms such as bleeding gums, redness, bad breath and even tooth loss.

Better than cigarettes?

The truth is, no one is completely sure about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes which can make them a particular concern for adolescents.  Many teenagers are smoking e-cigarettes because they feel they are safe or cool.  Regardless of how it’s delivered, however, nicotine is still a highly addictive drug that should be avoided by everyone, especially growing teens.   With few laws banning their use among young people, it’s important to educate your children about the potential hazards of this growing trend.

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