Toothbrushing for Teens: How to Handle Teenage Dental Issues

There comes a time in any parent’s life when their sweet, babbling child morphs into a silent, brooding teenager. Brushing teeth is easier when you can turn it into a game, but what happens when they start growing up and no longer care for the fun toothbrushing song you used to sing together? Teenage dental issues are pretty common as brushing may no longer be their priority.

There are so many other things to be aware of, and it’s important that you educate your child on how to keep practising good oral hygiene throughout adolescence as well as some of the warning signs to be wary of. 

Lifestyle risks

As your child ages, there are more teenage dental issues that they are at an increased risk for. Here are some of the most common lifestyle risks to educate them on.


Research shows that 1 in 3 Australian adults over the age of 15 have untreated tooth decay. One of the biggest dietary factors influencing this is sugar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults only consume only six or less teaspoons (approximately 24 grams) of free sugar to decrease their risk of tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain.

Ensure your child follows a good diet, knows the risks of teenage dental issues that stem from a high-sugar diet, and reiterate the significance of regular brushing and flossing.

Smoking and vaping

Unfortunately, smoking and vaping are common things that teens experiment with. Apart from the other well-documented smoking-related health problems, smoking and vaping both affect the health of the mouth. Smokers are more likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers. Visiting the dentist for teeth, mouth and gum checks regularly is crucial for teens who smoke.

Tobacco and vaping affect the mouth differently. The tobacco and nicotine in cigarettes can cause the teeth to become stained and yellow while also causing bad breath. Cigarettes can also affect your ability to taste specific foods and drinks.

Although vapes have no tobacco in them, they can still harm your oral health and are not a replacement for cigarettes. Many vapes and e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other chemicals, including heavy metals, that have a similar negative effect as regular smoking.


Like smoking, drinking is something else new that teens often try. However – like smoking – drinking can be detrimental to oral health. Alcohol causes dehydration – where your body doesn’t have enough water – meaning you produce less saliva. You might not know, but saliva is crucial in protecting your teeth. When you are dehydrated, your teeth will be less protected from the acidic and sugary alcoholic drinks you may continue to drink. Due to the sugar in alcohol and the effects of dehydration, drinking increases your risk of tooth decay.

If your teens are drinking, remind them to brush with fluoride toothpaste before bed and drink plenty of water throughout the night to stay hydrated.

Mouth piercings

This one may surprise you, but mouth piercings are another lifestyle risk. Mouth piercings can cause complications, including pain, swelling, bleeding, infection, slow healing, and difficulty chewing and speaking.

If your teen (or you!) decides to get a mouth piercing, plastic jewellery is recommended over metal. This is because the metal ball or backing can repeatedly knock against the adjacent teeth causing cracks, tooth wear or gums to recede.

If you know your teen is thinking about getting a mouth piercing, consider chatting with their dentist first about some of the health risks and how to care appropriately for it.

Teeth straightening

Orthodontics is a special field in dentistry that involves diagnosing, preventing, and correcting crooked teeth, jaws, and unfavourable bite patterns. As your kids hit puberty, the shape of their mouths will start to change, and their teeth may become misaligned. Depending on the misalignment’s severity and other factors, they may be eligible for braces or other teeth straightening procedures.

Orthodontics treat things like:

  • Crooked or crowded teeth
  • Incorrect biting patterns
  • Severe misalignment of teeth and/or jaws
  • Past habits such as thumb sucking that has affected the position of the tooth and the development of the jaw bones.

Not all adult teeth need to be present, so early intervention is best.

Mouthguards and sports drinks

Sports are great ways for kids to stay active and socialise. However, some sports are high-risk settings for injury and dental trauma, such as broken jaws, fractured, cracked or knocked-out teeth, and cut lips and tongues. Aside from the obvious contact sports like AFL, rugby, hockey and boxing, solo sports like skateboarding and BMXing present a high risk.

If your child plays a sport, talk to them about the benefits of wearing a mouthguard from a young age.

Read our blog to learn more about mouthguards and teenage dental issues.

What to tell your teen

As they grow older, be sure to add oral hygiene to the conversations you need to have with them (aside from why they didn’t unpack the dishwasher and when they last cleaned their room!).

Some things to talk about include:

Brushing and flossing

First thing’s first – brushing. Brushing your teeth a minimum of twice a day for two minutes is recommended. This becomes especially important if they begin partaking in lifestyle risks like drinking and smoking, where they are more exposed to things like tooth decay.

Flossing or ‘interdental cleaning’ should be a key part of everyone’s daily routines. If your teen frequently skips over the floss, be sure to reiterate its importance.

To learn more about good oral hygiene practices, read our blog.

Getting X-rays done

Lastly, on their trip to the dentist, encourage them to get regular X-rays. Dental X-rays allow dentists to see what is happening in someone’s mouth below the surface. They can detect oral conditions like:

  • Tooth decay.
  • Issues with past dental treatment.
  • Bone that has been lost from around the teeth due to severe gum disease.
  • Tooth and bone fractures following an accident or injury causing damage to the face or mouth.
  • The location of teeth in relation to nerves, sinuses, and other facial structures.
  • Abscesses cysts and tumours.
  • Stages of tooth development, including the timing of when teeth will push through into the mouth.
  • Extra teeth, missing teeth, and teeth that are blocked from moving into the mouth (impacted teeth).

Book an appointment with the Mornington Peninsula Dental Clinic team today for more advice on caring for your child’s teeth.

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