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It is very important for adolescents to take care of their teeth. Good adolescent oral health can prevent a variety of dental issues. 

According to the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA), teenagers face unique challenges that younger children do not.

Teenagers commonly struggle with orthodontics, contact sports and diets loaded with sugar and carbohydrates. Other issues include mouth piercings, smoking and vaping. They also exhibit higher rates of tooth decay as a result of these challenges. 

Tongue & Mouth Piercings

You might not be surprised anymore to see people with pierced tongues, lips or cheeks, but you might be surprised to know just how dangerous these piercings can be.

There are many risks involved with oral piercings, including chipped or cracked teeth, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums or scar tissue. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Your tongue could swell large enough to close off your airway!

Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, an increased flow of saliva and injuries to gum tissue. Difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result if a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the needle.

So follow the advice of the American Dental Association and give your mouth a break – skip the mouth jewelry.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco in any form can jeopardize your child’s health and cause incurable damage. Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is an unfortunate misconception. Studies show that spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and may be more difficult to quit. Teens who use it may be interested to know that one can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce pre-cancerous lesions called leukoplakias.

If your child is a tobacco user you should watch for the following that could be early signs of oral cancer:

  • A sore that won’t heal.
  • White or red leathery patches on the lips, and on or under the tongue.
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue; or a change in the way the teeth fit together.

Because the early signs of oral cancer usually are not painful, people often ignore them. If it’s not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery. Even worse, it can kill.

Help your child avoid tobacco in any form. By doing so, they will avoid bringing cancer-causing chemicals in direct contact with their tongue, gums and cheek.

e-Cigarettes & Vaping

Smoking e-cigarettes (vaping) is not healthier than smoking tobacco. No tobacco does not mean no nicotine. Since nicotine is delivered via vaping, all of the health problems associated with nicotine are still there. 

E-cigarettes use an aerosol, or vapor, that consists of fine particles to deliver nicotine into the lungs. Many of these particles contain toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, respiratory disease, and heart disease.


Teenagers who take care of their mouth will enjoy healthy teeth as an adult. Parents play a key role in prevention by setting good examples, discussing how teens can avoid dental problems and making sure their child gets regular dental care.

Proper oral hygiene, appropriate diet and good habits will help your teen attain a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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