New parents receive a lot of advice on how to get baby started on a solid path toward lifetime oral health. We don?t talk enough, though, about the unique dental challenges faced by teens. I have been a practicing family dentist in Richmond for a long time. I understand the worries parents have for the wellbeing of their teenaged children. I am a father, too, so I shared those concerns as my own five children were growing up. If you are parenting an adolescent, here are some areas where a dentist who really knows your family can be a big advantage.
I begin monitoring a child?s oral development the first time he or she is in my chair. I watch for signs that that teeth are coming in crooked, or that the bite is out of balance. These signals can be subtle and indirect ? unusual wear on one side, enamel fractures, or the child?s reluctance to smile. When I treat multiple family members or generations, I am aware of, and vigilant for, hereditary malocclusion. I can help you determine if the child needs orthodontics, the best type (conventional braces or Invisalign), and the right time to get started.
Third molars typically come in between the ages of 17 and 21, but each child?s mouth develops on a different schedule. Wisdom teeth are one of the reasons it is especially important for teens to maintain regular bi-annual check-ups, because problems can develop rather quickly. If they become impacted (do not erupt through the jawbone), do not come in straight, or the mouth is already crowded, it may be best to have wisdom teeth extracted before they can compromise the rest of the child?s dentition.
During their teen years, advice you give your child may be ignored or mocked. Yet I?m often surprised at how they will speak candidly with me and listen to what I have to say, so I don?t waste those opportunities. I talk with my young patients about tobacco ? that it is going to be hard to say no when they are pressured to smoke or chew, and why it is important to do the right thing. We talk about bad breath and bad teeth. We also talk about cancer. Depending on the individual, this frank discussion may include alcohol and drugs. Be assured that I am not trying to take over your role as a parent. I simply believe that the more times and the more ways kids hear this, the more likely they are to make good decisions.
Tendencies toward anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating usually begin during teen years. These conditions can have a devastating impact on a young woman?s physical and emotional health, so the sooner the problem is recognized and dealt with, the better. I can help. I watch for oral signs of nutritional deficiency such as soft tissues that bleed easily, swollen saliva glands, and chronic dry mouth. Frequent vomiting erodes tooth enamel, causing changes in the color, shape, and strength of teeth ? conditions I recognize during an oral examination.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. When you become patients of the Richmond Smile Center, you can count on a family dentist and an entire dental team in Richmond to help get your child through teen years with a healthy, gorgeous smile. Call 804-417-7203.