Common Oral Health Problems in Adolescents
Adolescents face many oral health problems which may require them to visit a dentist or any other healthcare professional. Irregular teeth growth is a common problem and adolescents with braces are a common sight. Another problem is wisdom teeth extraction or the removal of the third molar. Dental cavities are yet another common problem in adolescents.
Orthodontics is a specialty in dentistry which deals with correction, development and prevention of irregular teeth, jaw and bite. Orthodontics also helps to correct jaw disorders and facial abnormalities. If a general dentist feels abnormalities in the adolescent, he/she will refer the patient to an orthodontist. The American Dental Association suggests that every adolescent above the age of seven should get an orthodontic evaluation done. Problems which require orthodontic treatment are crowded or crooked teeth, extra teeth, missing teeth, under-bite, overbite, jaw joint disorder, and incorrect or misaligned jaw position.
To get braces or any other orthodontic treatments, the appropriate age is ten to fourteen years. But regardless of the age, the same physical and biological process is used in correcting and moving the teeth alignments. Braces are also known as fixed orthodontic appliances. There are three types of braces used to move and reposition the teeth. The first consists of brackets which are made out of plastic or metal. They are either of tooth color or clear and are bonded onto the teeth. The second type is the lingual type of brackets which are attached to the back teeth and cannot be seen while talking. The third type is a band. It is a metal band which covers the teeth and wraps around the last ones.
When adolescents wear braces they have to take certain precautions in order to avoid any more oral health complications. The most important precautionary measure is to brush the teeth regularly after every meal. Since the food can be easily lodged in braces, it is a good idea to brush carefully with soft bristles toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. In the morning, the adolescent must floss between the braces and teeth. Food stuffs which are sticky or hard must be avoided as they are very difficult to remove. Foods like caramel, chew candy, popcorn, and nuts must be avoided. Cleaning must be done by the orthodontist or general dentist, every five to six months.
The wisdom teeth or third molars can grow in people of the age fifteen to twenty five. These teeth cause problem, because most of the mouths are too small to adjust new teeth and hence they need to be removed. If the wisdom tooth has place to grow, without affecting other teeth, they can be left to themselves. But if the adolescent experiences pain, facial swelling, mouth infection and gum-line swelling, then they should be extracted immediately. They can also destroy the second molars and impact other tooth. Various gum and jaw diseases can be caused. There can be a tumor development; cysts development and plaque build up. Hence, a surgery is performed to remove the tooth or teeth. The gum tissue covering the wisdom tooth is removed and the connective tissue connecting the tooth to the bone is detached. The tooth is then removed and the opening is sutured. A general dentist can perform wisdom tooth surgery in the local office using anesthesia.
Five times common than asthma is tooth cavities. The tooth above the gum line is made up of enamel, the hardest tissue within the human body. The tooth below the gum-line comprise of nerves, roots and dentin. Dentin is another type of tissue and isn’t as hard as the enamel. The acid which leads to tooth decay is produced by bacteria. These acids, along with dietary sugar, attach the enamel and eat away the minerals within the enamel, until a cavity is formed. This is known as tooth cavity. The biggest prevention against dental cavities is brushing teeth twice a day and even better, after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and soft bristle toothbrush. Carbonated drinks must be avoided strictly and must be replaced with fruit juices and sugary food must be avoided. Intake of fluoridated water also helps a lot or fluoride supplements can be used as replacement.
Periodontal Disease in Adolescents
The meaning of the word “periodontal” is around the tooth. Also known as gum diseases periodontal diseases are nothing but serious infections caused by bacteria that harm the gums and tissues in the vicinity of the mouth. While dental cavities or caries only affects the tooth Periodontal disease is devastating affecting the bones that surround the tooth, gums, coverings of teeth root and tooth membrane. A physician specializing in the treatment of periodontal disease is known as Periodontist.
The disease should not be taken lightly and if it’s left untreated it can spread and affect the bones under the teeth which would eventually dissolve and would not longer support the teeth in its place. The chronic form of the disease is responsible for tooth loss in seventy percent of the cases affecting seventy five percent of the people at some time in their lives.
The causes of periodontal disease are similar to any other oral disease wherein plaque buildup and bacteria are responsible for the condition. According to statistics plaque buildup is the main cause of gum related diseases. Apart from the causes listed, the other possible causes of periodontal disease include: Genetics, unkempt oral hygiene, food getting stuck to frequently in the gums, mouth breathing, low nutrient diet or vitamin c deficient diet, smoking, diabetes, autoimmune/systemic disease, changes in hormone levels, certain medications and constantly teeth grinding.
According to statistics nearly sixty six percent young adult population suffers from periodontal disease and nearly fifty percent of teenagers suffer from periodontal disease. Also, it is the most widespread tooth loss cause in adults. But, what are the symptoms of periodontal disease? There are various symptoms and it could differ from one adolescent to the other which may include swollen, tender, and red gums; if one gets bleeding during brushing or flossing the teeth it is also one of the symptoms of periodontal disease; receding gums; constant odorous breath; loose teeth; dentures not fitting any longer; change in alignment of jaw and bite. The symptoms of the disease may be similar to other medical conditions and doctor’s consultation is the best in this regard.
Periodontal disease can be diagnosed by a dentist or a periodontist after reviewing the complete medical history and also physical examination of the teenager’s mouth. Usually x-ray of the teeth is taken to evaluate the disease. Periodontal disease is classified into different types based on what stage the disease is in. The mildest form of gum disease is known as “gingivitis” in which gums become swollen, red and tender resulting in bleeding while daily brushing and flossing. Gingivitis is again divided into 4 groups primarily acute, sub-acute, recurrent and chronic. Acute gingivitis is nothing but sudden appearance which lasts for shorter duration and could be painful. Sub-acute gingivitis is less severe type of gingivitis. Recurrent gingivitis is the one that comes back after treatment. Chronic gingivitis is the one that onsets slowly, lasts longer and is generally painless. A dentist’s treatment and proper and continuous care can easily solve the problem of gingivitis but if left untreated could result in periodontitis.
Periodontitis is further classified into mild and moderate to advance. Periodontitis results from untreated gingivitis. In this stage the deterioration of the bone in the vicinity of the tooth becomes evident. The common symptoms include red gums that bleed; mouth tastes bad; loose teeth; tooth loss. Proper treatment is a must to control the disease and prevent further deterioration. Periondontitis which is in moderate to advanced stage shows signs of major loss of tissue and bone loss near the teeth.
There are various treatments available for periodontal disease which is decided by the dentist depending on teenager’s age, medical history and health in general. The method of treatment also depends on the extent to which disease has reached. The tolerance of the teenager to certain medicines, therapies and procedures are also taken into consideration. Expectations and opinion of the parents or teenager is also the criteria in deciding the type of treatment. The treatment usually involves plaque removal, medication and in worse cases a surgery.