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Timely Tips for Teens and Their Teeth

Experts say too many teens neglect their smile

FRIDAY, Feb. 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Teens may pay close attention to fashion and music, but many don't seem to devote much effort into looking after their oral health, says the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Many teens do not see a dentist for regular dental care and some have never even been to the dentist," AGD spokesperson Cindy Bauer said in a prepared statement. "They don't get the care they need or the proper oral education to make smart decisions on the foods they eat and on how to practice good oral hygiene habits at home."

As part of National Children's Dental Health Month in February, the AGD is offering the following oral health advice for teens:

  • Limit the amount of soda you drink. The sugar in soda is harmful to teeth, while flavor additives can erode and damage tooth enamel. If you do drink soda, use a straw to reduce contact between the soda and teeth. After you drink soda, rinse your mouth with water in order to reduce your risk of cavities.
  • Don't get your tongue pierced. You can chip or fracture your teeth on tongue piercings while you eat, sleep, talk or chew on the jewelry. Oral piercings can also cause infection. In some cases, the infection causes the tongue to swell so much that it interferes with breathing. There's also the risk you may contract blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis.
  • Make time for healthy oral habits. Keep travel-size toothbrushes in your locker or backpack so that you can brush your teeth after having a quick snack or meal. Chewing sugarless gum containing the sweetener xylitol after you eat can also help cleanse your mouth. Drinking water throughout the day helps flush away excess bacteria and food debris.
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Regular dental visits help your dentist detect minor problems before they become major ones.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about oral health.

SOURCE: Academy of General Dentistry, news release, Feb. 1, 2005
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