oral hygiene tips for gen z ages 10-19

Adolescence is famous for being a season of change, especially in the body. However, many people forget that your oral health needs also change during this time. The oral hygiene tips you learned as a child may need to be tweaked or expanded to serve you well as a teenager.

In our Oral Hygiene Tips blog series, we’re diving deep into the oral health concerns you should be aware of at every age. Our West Michigan family dentists are eager to help patients adopt new oral health practices at different life stages.

Our first blog dealt with oral health risks and hygiene tips for children. In this blog, let’s take a look at common risks and practices for Generation Z, commonly known simply as Gen Z. (Although Gen Z typically includes anyone born after 1996, for our purposes, we’re focusing on the preteens and teenagers of this generation: ages 10–19).

Oral Health Concerns for Preteens and Teenagers

Preteens and teenagers need to pay special attention to the following aspects of their dental health:

  • Dental emergencies
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Eating disorders
  • Gum disease and oral cancer

Dental Emergencies

It’s estimated that three out of four American households have at least one school-aged child participating in youth sports. 

While sports are a great form of exercise, they can also unfortunately be the cause of many dental emergencies. Without proper protection, preteens and teenagers may suffer dental or facial trauma on the field, court, or pitch.

Serious facial trauma requires emergency medical treatment, not dental treatment. However, the two may go hand in hand. Make sure your teenage athlete receives emergency medical care for any broken bones first. Then, you can take them to see our emergency dentists so we can restore their smile if necessary.

Orthodontic Treatment

Middle school and high school are seasons in which many of us receive orthodontic treatment to straighten our smiles and improve our oral health. 

Today, Gen Z has many options for straightening their smiles. While traditional metal braces may be the best option for some, your teenager may be a good candidate for Invisalign® clear aligners.

Although many teenagers may prefer clear aligners, only those who have the self-discipline to care for their teeth during treatment will qualify as candidates for Invisalign. Because Invisalign are removable, your teenage child will also need to be committed to wearing them for at least 20 hours a day.

Eating Disorders

It’s no secret that eating disorders can be devastating to teenagers’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

In fact, nearly 3% of teenagers struggle with an eating disorder. Roughly 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys have resorted to unhealthy measures (e.g., skipping meals, vomiting, taking laxatives) to try to control their weight at least once.

What you may not know is that eating disorders affect teenagers’ dental health as well.

Lack of proper nutrition can cause the gums to bleed, opening the door to infection. Stomach acids from frequent vomiting can change your teeth’s color, shape, length, and strength. 

The National Eating Disorder Association helpline is available for anyone, regardless of their age, who may be struggling with an eating disorder. It’s especially important for preteens and teenagers to seek treatment so they can protect their physical, mental, emotional, and dental health while their bodies are still growing.

Oral Cancer and Gum Disease

Many preteens and teenagers think they are too young to have to worry about their gum health or their risk for mouth cancer. Unfortunately, smoking can make these seemingly grown-up issues a present reality.

Around 9 out of 10 daily cigarette smokers first tried smoking before the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One out of every 10 middle schoolers and more than one out of every four high schoolers in 2019 reported using electronic cigarettes within the past 30 days.

Whether they’re smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, smoking can seriously damage preteens’ and teenagers’ oral health. It’s important for Gen Z to resist the temptation to start smoking in the first place.

Gen Z Oral Hygiene Routine

What can preteens and teenagers do to mitigate these oral health risks? Here are a few good oral health habits they can adopt:

  • Brush twice a day: Your teenager’s risk for cavities actually increases in their teenage years compared to their risk during childhood. Make sure they continue to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day.
  • Floss daily: If your child hasn’t started flossing yet, now is the perfect opportunity to adopt the habit. Flossing daily gets rid of plaque, which minimizes their risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Practice proper eating habits: As mentioned earlier, proper nutrition is key to protecting your teenager’s oral health. It’s also important to consume sugary foods and drinks sparingly, not on a regular basis.
  • Get a professional teeth cleaning: We recommend all patients get their teeth cleaned by our dental hygienists every six months. The same applies to preteen and teenage patients. This allows us to monitor their oral health on a routine basis and respond to any problems early, before they develop into more serious dental issues.

Protect Your Teenager’s Oral Health

Our West Michigan family dentists can help your preteen or teenager learn to take ownership of their oral health and practice good oral hygiene. With four practices in West Michigan, we have the capability of handling all of your family’s dental needs. To schedule an appointment, call MI Smiles Dental at (616) 974-4990.