Adolescent Oral Health

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Brushing only once a day or not at all

POTENTIAL RISKS: Development of cavities and/or gum diseases

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Brushing once a day is okay in most cases, although, if only brushing once a day it is most important to brush in the evenings after dinner. Creating a reminder on the phone may help prompt brushing for forgetful teens. Rewards systems can work well for some adolescents.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Not cleaning in between the teeth

POTENTIAL RISK: Development of cavities and/or gum diseases

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Try flossettes as they have handles for easier access and a quicker overall flossing experience. Pick two days of the week and make sure you floss all of your teeth on those two days every week.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: High sugar diet (food, drinks, medicines)

POTENTIAL RISKS: Increase in demineralised enamel leading to cavities

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Choose healthy snacks (such as yoghurt, cheese, fruit, nuts, berries, vegetable sticks) over sugary snacks (lollies, chocolate, museli bars, biscuits). Avoid soft drinks, energy drinks, cordial, flavoured beverages, and consume mostly water throughout the day.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Smoking / Vaping

POTENTIAL RISKS: Development of oral pathology, cancers and/or increased risk and severity of gum diseases

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Create an environment where adolescents feel comfortable talking to an adult about the potential risks associated with smoking (this doesn’t have to be a parent, it can be an aunt, uncle, or family friend). Never make teens feel bad for smoking, instead, discuss the risks, encourage them to stop and refer them to a pharmacy, GP, or the Quitline to assist with cessation strategies.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Alcohol

POTENTIAL RISKS: Erosion of tooth structure due to vomiting, reflux and/or pH of alcoholic beverages. Trauma due to knocks, falls, or aggressive behaviour. Increases in cavities due to high sugar content and low pH of alcoholic beverages

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Consume drinking alcohol in moderation and encourage consumption of water in between standard drinks.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Recreational drug use

POTENTIAL RISKS: Broken teeth due to clenching, grinding of teeth, or aggressive behaviour. Increases in cavities and/or gum diseases due to decreased salivary function.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Create an environment where adolescents feel comfortable talking to an adult about the potential risks associated with recreational drug use (this doesn’t have to be a parent, it can be an aunt, uncle or family friend). You may wish to refer to a GP or area health service for education and/or management of drug use/addiction.

PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR: Sexual activity

POSTENTIAL RISKS: Contraction of Herpes Simplex Virus – HSV (cold sores) and/or Human Papilloma Virus – HPV

SOLUTION: HPV is a leading cause of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers; both HSV and HPV are spread through skin to skin contact. Encourage the use of contraception for sexually active adolescents, as well as utilising sexual health check up services for STI tests and education purposes. You may wish to refer to a GP, youth health centre, FPA health clinic (formerly Family Planning NSW), sexual health clinic, women’s health centre or Aboriginal sexual health service