We get it—between school, extracurriculars, homework, work, and friends, there never seem to be enough hours in the day. But busyness shouldn’t ever be an excuse for not taking care of your teeth. Once your permanent teeth come in, you don’t have any more replacements. You’ll have these teeth for the rest of your life, and taking care of them now helps form good habits that’ll keep your mouth happy and healthy for years to come. Check out these ten dental care tips for teens and tweens.

1. Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day, Every Day

One of the easiest and most important steps you can take towards keeping your mouth healthy is to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time. And don’t forget to brush your tongue! The tongue is one of the most bacteria-ridden areas of your mouth, making it the most common culprit behind bad breath.

2. Don’t Skip Out on the Floss

Floss your teeth every single day, preferably at the end of the day when you have finished eating. Flossing is an often ignored or overlooked step that is critical to properly cleaning your teeth. Brushing alone is not enough to dislodge any food particles and plaque that build up between the teeth, and some estimates suggest that up to a third of your tooth’s surface can only be cleaned with floss. Flossing is especially important if you have braces, which create even more space for plaque to accumulate in. If this is the case, you will need to use either threaded floss or proxabrushes to reach above the wires. If you find regular dental floss frustrating or difficult to work with, flossers & floss handles can make the process easier and faster.

3. Avoid Sugary and Starchy Foods

The sugars and starches found in many foods can have a seriously negative effect on your teeth. The sugars in fast food, candy, sweets, and other junk foods stick to your teeth and can cause decay, gingivitis, and more. Choose healthier foods instead, like whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unsweetened dairy products. But even these types of foods have ingredients that can cause plaque, which is why it’s important to brush and floss every day, regardless of your diet.

4. Put Down the Soda & the Double Whip Mocha Chip Frappuccino

Sodas (even diet and low-calorie ones) and gourmet coffee drinks are loaded with sugars that cling to your teeth and gums, causing plaque build-up and cavities. Not only are these drinks high in sugar, they also contain acids that eat away at the enamel of your teeth, which can cause sensitivity and increased risk of decay. Be on the lookout for hidden sugar in other drinks as well—fruit juices, sports drinks, and even flavored waters can have tons of sugar hiding behind their “healthy” labels.

5. Chew Xylitol Gum

Xylitol is a natural sweetener has been studied and proven to help cleanse the mouth and increase saliva production, especially when chewed after meals. So trade in your Juicy Fruit and Dubble Bubble for a sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol for healthier teeth and gums.

6. Wear a Mouth Guard for Contact Sports

50% of all teens will suffer at least one traumatic injury to a tooth by the time they graduate from high school, and athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth when not wearing a mouth guard. That’s why, if you participate in any kind of contact sport—from basketball and soccer to volleyball and football—you should wear a mouth guard during practices and competition. Mouth guards are specially designed to prevent injuries to the teeth, mouth, and jaw. Plus, mouth guards also protect your brain—wearing one can cut your risk of a concussion in half! If store bought mouth guards are irritating or uncomfortable, check with your dentist about getting fitted for a piece that is custom-fit for your mouth.

7. Just Say No to Cigarettes, Chewing Tobacco, and E-Cigarettes

Cigarettes and chewing tobacco can cause a variety of unpleasant oral side effects, including bad breath, stained teeth, loss of taste & smell, canker sores, gum recession, tooth decay and loss, gum disease, and oral cancer, among a host of other problems. Even e-cigarettes can cause oral health issues, with commonly reported side effects including dry mouth, decreased saliva production, and oral irritation.

8. Avoid Lip & Tongue Piercings, Inner Lip Tattoos, and Decorative Grills

While these oral accessories can seem fun, the potential side effects can end up being more than you bargained for. Lip, tongue, and other intraoral piercings can cause a host of problems, such as infection, allergic reaction, gum disease, difficulty swallowing, excess salivation, and impaired speech. Plus, the hardware can damage teeth, fillings, and delicate mouth tissue.

Inner lip tattoos have a high risk of infection and allergic reaction and, as a result of their location, they are extremely painful and can cause gum recession. Plus, based on the fast healing properties of the mouth, inner lip tattoos usually don’t last very long anyways.

Decorative grills or covers for teeth come with a whole host of problems as well. While the metals used can cause infections and allergic reactions, extended wear often results in bad breath, tooth decay and loss, and gum disease.

9. Know the Side Effects of Your Medications

Many types of prescription medications can have serious side effects that impact your oral health. Oral contraceptives and antibiotics (especially those taken for acne and other skin conditions) can have unanticipated effects on your oral health, such as weakening of tooth enamel and gum discoloration. Make sure you know the potential side effects of all your prescriptions, and if you notice any changes to your teeth, gums, or mouth, see your dentist right away.

10. Visit Your Dentist Every Six Months

These regular visits are so important for cleaning your teeth and gums. Plus, your dentist will check for any underlying issues with your oral health, such as impacted wisdom teeth, gingivitis, cavities, and more. Identifying and treating these problems early is an important step in maintaining good oral health.

Bonus Oral Care Tip for Teens: Partner with Your Dentist Now for a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth

Think of your dentist as a partner in your oral healthcare journey. They should be there to help you achieve a happy, healthy smile throughout your life. If you’ve got questions or concerns about your oral health care, schedule an appointment with one of the skilled dentists at Acworth Dental Center by calling (770) 203-1711 or by filling out our online contact form.

We look forward to getting to know you and your family!