Synergy Parkside dentist, Dr Dani Sharma, offers advice for those difficult teenage years
As parents, it can be hard to let go, but let go of our children we will inevitably do at some stage. As our children start to grow up and gain more and more independence, they will almost certainly make a number of decisions that we are not entirely happy about. This is all a part of the process of growing up of course, but some of the decisions that they take may affect them for many years to come.
This is often particularly true when it comes to how they look after their teeth and gums. It may have been a long time since we were able to stand in the bathroom singing ‘row your boat’ whilst they cleaned their teeth under our supervision, but that doesn’t mean that we care any less about how they look after them.
As our children grow older, they naturally want less interference from their parents, especially in those day to day things like cleaning their teeth. As we know though, teenagers are not generally great at organising their life to do the more mundane things, instead always looking forward to going to see friends or playing the latest games on their X Box. In addition to perhaps neglecting to clean their teeth as well as they should, a teenager’s diet is likely to be high in sugars as they eat snacks that give them quick energy, or alternatively, tasty, but often unhealthy, ‘junk’ foods. A combination of these factors means that their teeth, which we had managed to help them keep healthy for so long, are now at risk.
Rotting teeth and sore and bleeding gums are a real possibility if care is not taken. Add in the possible addition of smoking, alcohol and even, regretfully, drugs, as they reach their later teenage years and there could be a lot of problems in store that could potentially leave them with poor quality teeth throughout their adult life.
How can you help?
A parent’s duty to look after their children does not end when they reach the difficult years. Whilst some teenagers may continue to look after their teeth and be diligent about cleaning them, others will not. Each parent will know their own child and hopefully also understand how to encourage them. Even a good old fashioned ‘nagging’ can work with some teenagers. Most want an easy life and for some, it is easier to actually go and clean their teeth rather than have to put up with the constant reminders that they should do so. Younger teenagers can probably be encouraged with ‘bribes’ to look after them in exchange for more pocket money etc.
Whilst daily general oral care is extremely important, one thing that you should make sure is that they are registered at our Woking dental surgery and that they keep their appointments to see us so that they can have regular monitoring of their oral health.
How can we help?
There are a number of ways that we can help your teenager. For a start, as we don’t represent an ‘authority figure’ to them, there is a good chance that they will be more inclined to listen to what we say. By explaining the consequences of neglecting their teeth, we can hopefully encourage them to look after them better. Explaining to them that gum disease can cause bad breath can be very effective at the time when they are seeking out relationships, for example.
Whilst we, and you, will always do all that we can to help them maintain healthy teeth and gums, the Synergy Parkside Dental Centre will always be there to help them restore any teeth that have suffered from decay or breakages. Gum disease can also be managed as well, with our help.
Our ‘smile friendly’ treatments mean that even restorative treatments such as a filling can be performed using materials that match the colour of their natural teeth, rendering the restoration much less visible. The same can be said if they require orthodontic treatments to straighten their teeth. Modern systems such as Invisalign and the Inman Aligner allow us to do so in a much more discreet way than the traditional metal wire and brackets system.
Tooth loss is slightly more problematic when they need to be replaced. Ideally, dental implants would be used as these offer the best method currently available, offering a level of strength and stability that others can’t. Unfortunately, these can only be placed once the face is fully developed. This usually occurs around the age of 17 or 18 so any tooth loss before this will probably require a denture to be fitted until such a time that implants can be placed.
Although we are more than happy to see teenagers who have problems with their teeth, potentially caused through neglect, it is preferable to make sure that they are in the habit of seeing a dentist regularly from a much younger age.
Whether your child is a teenager yet or not, please make sure that they are registered at our Woking family dental practice. You can arrange an appointment for them by calling us on 01483 766355.