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Top Five Threats to Teens’ Teeth

The teen years are when you should be taking control of your dental health. Too bad many teens make choices that can harm their teeth and gums for life. Here are some of the worst offenders:

 1 – Tobacco

Both smoking and dipping leave ugly stains on teeth. But the real damage is less visible. Even short-term tobacco use makes it harder for your mouth to heal from dental work or injuries. Long-term use increases risk of mouth and throat cancer. Smokeless tobacco (chew, snuff, dip and snus) is extra hard on the mouth. These products deliver harmful chemicals right to your gums. They are also rough and wear away your teeth’s enamel. Many contain sweeteners that promote cavities and can lead to tooth loss and gum disease.

2 – Piercings

Tongue and lip jewelry harm your teeth in two ways. Metal jewelry can wear away at your teeth and irritate your gums. You could also bite down on it and break a tooth. Piercings can also harbor nasty bacteria that cause tooth decay. In some cases, new piercings can become infected, leading to life-threatening complications or death.

3 – Sports Injuries

Getting hit in the mouth by a ball, fist or from falling is never fun. It’s even worse if you break a tooth or lose one. Sports like basketball, football or skateboarding are especially dangerous to your teeth. You can reduce the risk by wearing a mouth guard. Custom-fit ones are best, but ones from sporting goods stores work too. If you do injure a tooth, get to an emergency dentist right away.

4 – Sugary, Sticky or Starchy Foods

Sugar feeds the bacteria that attack your teeth. We all know candy and soda are culprits, but there are others. Although they don’t taste sweet, simple starches like those found in chips and bread are just as harmful. Potato chips are especially good at getting stuck in your teeth where they feed bacteria. Other “sticky” foods include dried fruits and nuts, which can be good for your body but hard on your teeth. You can still eat these foods, but brush your teeth afterward! Crisp fruits and vegetables can also help keep your teeth clean between brushing.

5 – Neglect

Even if you avoid all of the above risks, you still need to take care of your teeth. That means brushing and flossing twice a day. You should also go to the dentist every six months for checkups. Pay attention between checkups too. Tooth and gum pain, swelling, sores and spots in your mouth can all get worse quickly. That’s why it’s so important to see a dentist when problems start.