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How Prevalent Are Teenager Cavities Really?

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Dear Doctors:

When I notice my teens skipping brushing their teeth after a late night (yes, I admit I check the toothbrushes) I get concerned with everything we invest in their mouths. My son also snapped his toothbrush with vigorous brushing. This can’t

be good. I think he needs Teeth Brushing 101?


You’re right on the button. People of all ages canget careless with routine habits, and if something doesn’t hurt or bother them it is easy to fall into repeat behavior. Skipping brushing is a big one.When someone goes to bed without brushing,the

bacteria and plaque their mouth creates a more acidic environment. Once in a while probably won’t ‘tell’ on you, but skip on a more regular basis and you risk cavities, plaque buildup, gum disease, and deterioration of the enamel on your teeth. Hurrying through brushing is also problematic. You should brush your teeth for two minutes each night. This is programmed intomany of the electric toothbrushes available. Some are even blue tooth connected to your smart phone, and will question you about changing your brush head and other details. Many people,especially children, do a 30 second brush and believe they have completed the job. Skipping a checkup is more of an issue than one would think. When people move cities it takes

them less than 8 months to find a physician, but many take 2 years to find a new dentist. Bad things happen quietly, and without discomfort it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that things are just fine. Nothing in dentistry ever becomes

less expensive or easier to repair by waiting. Our patients who see us most often usually invest less overall and have healthier mouths. Something as simple as replacing a toothbrush is another issue. Brushes should be changed every 3 months, and more often if you encounter a boutwith the flu or major cold. Electric brush heads can be sterilized with their ultraviolet option, but manual ones should simply be replaced. Don’t think you can get more life out of a toothbrush by running it through a dishwasher or a microwave. Don’t brush right after drinking coffee, which some do to avoid ‘coffee breath’. The beverage is acidic, and immediate brushing actually can do damage to your enamel. Rinse with water, but wait 30 minutes to brush. For your teens – watch their intake of sport drinks. They can be worse than soda pop. Snacking through the day is adding sugar continually, which is damaging. Brushing too hard, or using an electric brush with too

much pressure can cause gum and enamel or even root damage. Basic things, but they affect all our oral health, not just teenagers.

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