1. Teens
  2. Health & wellbeing
  3. Daily care

Teeth issues for teenagers: 12-18 years

12-18 years

For teenagers, common concerns about teeth include teeth-grinding, orthodontics and injuries to teeth. If your child plays sport, a mouth guard is a very good idea.

Teeth-grinding

Occasional teeth-grinding that isn’t causing your child any problems doesn’t need treatment. But if teeth-grinding keeps going, it can lead to headaches, tooth pain or jaw pain or your child’s teeth wearing down. If you notice your child doing it often, it’s a good idea to get advice from an oral health professional.

Devices to protect your child’s teeth from grinding can help. You can get them from your dentist.

Orthodontics

Your child might see an orthodontist for treatment to help bring her teeth and jaw into line with each other.

When the teeth and jaw don’t line up properly, it can cause problems including gum damage, abnormal tooth wear and speech problems. Teenagers whose teeth and jaw don’t line up also have trouble getting their teeth clean.

It’s pretty common for young people to get orthodontic treatment these days – it’s likely that at least one of your child’s friends will be going through it too.

If your child has braces or other orthodontic appliances, it’s really important for him to pay particular attention to brushing teeth and flossing.

Injuries to teeth

Injuries to your child’s face and teeth can happen when she’s playing sport, skateboarding, riding bikes and so on. It’s a good idea to see a doctor or dentist if your child damages her teeth or face, especially if a tooth turns black or purple.

If your child knocks out an adult tooth there are a few things you and your child can do that might keep him from losing his tooth permanently:

  • Find the tooth.
  • Hold the tooth by the top (‘crown’), not the roots.
  • If the tooth is dirty, rinse it in milk or saline (salt and water) solution for a few seconds. Don’t rinse the tooth with water. 
  • Don’t let the tooth dry out.
  • Put the tooth back in its socket immediately.
  • Hold the tooth in place with aluminium foil. If you don’t have any aluminium foil handy, your child can bite down gently on a clean cloth – for example, a handkerchief or cotton flannel.
  • See your dentist immediately – time is critical, so you should take your child to the dentist as soon as possible.

If for some reason you can’t replace the tooth in its socket – for example, if your child is unconscious – put the tooth in milk or saline solution, or wrap it in plastic cling film and see your dentist immediately .

If your child chips or fractures a tooth, keep the piece of tooth and store it in milk. See your dentist immediately.

Mouth guards

If your child plays sport, it’s a good idea to get her used to wearing a mouth guard from an early age.

There are three types of mouth guards:

  • ready-made
  • ‘boil and bite’, which mould around your child’s teeth and jawbone
  • custom-made – these provide the best protection because they’re made to fit your child’s teeth and jaw.

When choosing a mouth guard, look for one that:

  • is thick enough (4 mm) to provide protection against impact
  • fits snugly and is comfortable
  • is odourless and tasteless
  • allows normal breathing and swallowing
  • allows normal speech.

To keep his mouth guard clean and in good shape, your child can:

  • rinse the mouth guard before each use, and brush it with a non-abrasive toothpaste afterwards
  • clean it once in a while in soapy water, making sure to rinse it thoroughly
  • carry the mouth guard in a container that has vents
  • avoid leaving the mouth guard in the sun or in hot water.

Take the mouth guard along to your child’s dental visits to make sure it still fits correctly. Your child might need a new mouth guard when changes happen in her mouth, such as when adult teeth come through.

Mouth guards need to be worn during training sessions and during match play if there’s any risk of your child getting a knock or falling.

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Last updated or reviewed
15-12-2015

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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