Education Just For You - Teenagers and Young Adults

Teenagers have their own special oral health issues, like wanting their smile to look attractive, worrying about bad breath, getting wisdom teeth, using tobacco or vaping, and thinking about getting oral piercings. 
This page is devoted to the things that teenagers and young adults may be interested in. Image of teenagers smiling

Attractive Smile

It seems like everybody wants to have perfectly straight, bright white teeth.  But a lot of those Instagram smiles aren’t naturally perfect. Teeth can be straightened with braces (orthodontia), if needed. And there are some safe ways to bleach teeth to get them whiter (talk to your hygienist or dentist). But most of all, love your smile!  Keep it clean by brushing and flossing, limit sugary food and drink to mealtime, and get regular checkups. Your smile is one of a kind!

Bad Breath

Image of teenager covering mouth because of bad breathMost teens say that someone having bad breath is an instant turnoff! And while bad breath can be treated and avoided, a lot of times, you may not know you have it.  In most cases, bad breath comes from your tongue. Some of the bacteria in your mouth can produce odor, especially when they get trapped around the taste buds on the tongue. So make sure you brush it, back to front, every time you brush!  You may also have bad breath if you have cavities or if your gums are inflamed, so getting regular dental checkups will help take care of that. And, if you are going to use gum or mints, make sure they are sugar-free so you can keep those cavities away.


Most teens are faced with pressure to use tobacco products and there are many reasons to just say no! Smoking gives you bad breath, can turn your teeth yellow, cause cavities, and is known to cause oral cancer. You may hear other teens say that vaping is not as harmful as smoking cigarettes. But that also isn’t true! Vaping can have negative consequences on teeth and the rest of your body.  E-cigarette aerosol can lead to more bacteria in the mouth than usual, which cause cavities and gum disease. The flavoring capsules in e-cigarettes can lead to cavities, too! And, they increase the risk of developing chronic lung diseases. 

Visit Quitline Iowa https://www.quitlineiowa.org/en-US/ to learn more about the dangers of vaping and using tobacco and to find resources for quitting.

Wisdom Teeth

It isn’t true that wisdom teeth make you smarter, but they are a fact of life! Older adolescents can expect the arrival of 4 wisdom teeth, way back in the back of the mouth.  With all those teeth, you may have some discomfort or pain because there may not be enough room for them to come in.  You should see a dentist if you have: gum pain, swelling in the face or gums, and/or wisdom teeth that come in crooked.
There is no “one answer” about whether wisdom teeth have to be removed. Your dentist will help to decide if yours will stay or if they need to go.


Oral Piercings 

In recent years, oral piercings – of the tongue, lips, and cheeks - have become a form of self-expression. Self-expression can be great, right? But, oral piercings can cause some problems, like Infection, bleeding, pain and swelling, chipped or cracked teeth, and injury to the gums. Because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, infection and swelling occur often with mouth piercings.
If you don’t have an oral piercing and you want one, be sure you know the risks. If you already have any piercings, make sure you keep the piercing site clean. Don’t click the jewelry against teeth, check the tightness of the jewelry every so often, remove the jewelry when you are playing sports, brush twice a day, and floss daily.  

Increased Risk of Cavities 

Teenagers tend to snack a lot, which can make them more at risk of getting cavities. This is especially true if you drink a lot of sugary sodas or sports drinks.  Try to avoid snacks that have a lot of sugarImage of teenager eating apple with friends and/or high carbohydrate items like granola bars, candy, chips, sports drinks, and soda. Save them for special occasions or eat/drink them with a meal. Try nuts, cheese, yogurt, fruits, or vegetables as snacks, and always fill up with tap water instead of other beverages.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Did you know the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 70% of oral and throat cancers may be linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV) – otherwise known as warts? The good news is there is a vaccine you can get to prevent HPV.

Please visit https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm for more information.

Q & A

Q. Which type of toothbrush should I use?

A. The American Dental Association recommends using a toothbrush with soft bristles because they reduce the risk of damage to your gums.

Q. Do electric toothbrushes clean better? 

A. If used correctly, both manual and powered toothbrushes are effective at removing plaque. Powered toothbrushes can be more expensive than most manual toothbrushes, but some people prefer electric toothbrushes because they are easy to use and often have a timer.

Q. What should I look for to make sure I purchase the right kind of toothpaste that is best for my teeth?

A. Dental experts agree that fluoride is the first thing you should look for in a toothpaste. Some even say fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, is the only ingredient you really need. That's because it helps keep teeth strong. It can also help repair the early stages of cavities.

Q. How often should I change my toothbrush? 

A. Replace toothbrushes every three to four months or more often if the bristles are matted or frayed. You should also replace your toothbrush after being sick with a cold, flu, or strep throat.

Q. I have heard that after brushing, I should spit the toothpaste out but not rinse, is this true?

A. Yes, spit out any excess toothpaste, but don't rinse your mouth with water immediately after brushing. If you do, it will wash away most of the fluoride. 

Q. What floss is best for my oral health?

A. Well, the answer isn’t straightforward – dental floss isn’t one-size-fits-all. Depending on your age, oral health habits, and personal preferences, you can find the perfect floss. Wax floss can make flossing easier, while some people like a thicker floss. Try different kinds and see what you like!

Q. Is there a certain way I am to floss?

A. There is! For a step by step flawless floss go to: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing-steps

Q. Define “regular checkups”. For example, should everyone get a dental checkup every 6 months?

A. The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist every six months, but some people may need more frequent visit and others may be okay with once a year. How often you have checkups really depends on you and your risk for getting cavities or gum disease. Be sure to ask your dentist or hygienist how often you need to get checkups, then be sure you stick to it! 



Did You Know?

You are amazing! Show your smile!