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Older Children And Teenager's Teeth

From the age of around seven most children will be able to clean their teeth without supervision. They are still likely to need you to remind them and check that they are spending enough time and effort on their routine.

These good habits will mean that caring for their teeth is part of their daily routine and be more likely to continue to do so as they become teenagers.

A teenager who has always been in the habit of caring for their teeth is likely to continue to do so as they get older.

There are lots of ways to keep a teen mouth healthy. Have a look at the tabs below for more information about older children and teenager's teeth.


  • As children get older they can begin to push boundaries and may not always follow the rules. Although this is very normal It is important to watch out for it so that good tooth care habits continue.

    If you think your child might not be brushing their teeth try not to get into an argument about it. You could try being ‘around the bathroom’ when they should be brushing. Let them know you have noticed by saying ‘Are we out of toothpaste? I’ve not heard you brush.’

    If it becomes a regular issue;

    • Ask your child if there is something that is getting in the way of them caring for their teeth; Do they run out of time? Don’t they like the toothpaste? Do they forget?
    • Think of ways they could remind themselves; try setting alarms on a phone, silly notes left above the sink.
    • New toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash can renew enthusiasm.
    • Stop buying any sweeter treats and drinks – explain this is because you cannot be sure they are cleaning their teeth properly.

    If you are worried call ahead to your dental practice before the next appointment. They may be able to point out to your child the impact not brushing is having on their teeth. They may be able to show them images of tooth decay.

  • Flossing and Interdental Care

    As children get older they should be more able to keep the surfaces in between their teeth clean.  Flossing and interdental brushes can be used as they remove plaque and food debris between teeth which can cause decay and gum disease.

    The video *here* show you how to floss.

    Your dental team can give you advice on this too.

  • Your dentist may recommend orthodontic work to straighten your teenager's teeth and/or to improve overcrowding.

    The issues with the teeth and how these are likely to affect them, will determine if the treatment is available on the NHS or will need to be privately funded.

    There is advice on caring for your braces and keeping your teeth and gums healthy here.

    Once braces are removed your child will need to wear a retainer brace  to stop the teeth moving back into their old position.

  • If your child takes part in contact sports it is wise to use a mouth guard to reduce the risk of injury. Your dental team can give you advice on this.

    If your child does injure a tooth seek advice as soon as possible by calling your dentist, or if it is out of hours you can contact 111.

    If a tooth comes out - place the tooth in milk in a sealed container and take with you to the dentist as soon as possible.

  • Chewing sugar free gum has been shown to reduce tooth decay by up to 40%.

    Chewing a sugar free gum after eating increases saliva in the mouth - this is the body's natural defence against acids and bacteria that cause tooth decay.

    If you do chew gum:

    • Chew after food and drinks for about 20 minutes
    • Make sure it is sugar free
    • Make sure you continue to brush teeth twice a day - chewing gum does not replace this
    • Don't give any to young children as it is not recommended for children age seven and younger
    • Chewing gum is not recommended if you are wearing braces.
  • Smoking is bad for oral health.

    • The tar and nicotine cause brown staining on the teeth.
    • Harmful bacteria in teeth increase and the blood supply that keeps teeth and gums healthy decrease; this can eventually lead to gum disease and can cause tooth loss.
    • Smoking also increases the risk of developing mouth cancers.

    Vaping is relatively new and so the long term effects on oral health are not certain. However, it is currently thought to be less harmful than smoking tobacco.

    • If nicotine based vape juice is used it can cause gum disease.
    • It may cause tooth staining.

    Drugs can cause dental problems;

    • Some drugs such as cannabis are mixed with tobacco so have the same risks as smoking cigarettes.
    • They can cause craving for sweet foods and drinks causing tooth decay.
    • They can cause a dry mouth which means there is less saliva to protect teeth from bacteria and acids.
    • Teeth grinding can damage the surface of the teeth.
  • Piercings of the tongue or lip have become more common with many young people choosing to do this.

    There is no minimum age for piercings in England – children and young people can consent for themselves  (many places who do piercings impose their own age limits).

    It is important that your child has all the facts of how this could affect their oral health.

    Piercings in the mouth can be a cause of damage to teeth and carry health risks, such as:

    • Tooth enamel can be chipped and cracked causing damage that requires dental treatment.
    • Effects on speech, such as lisps and slurring.
    • Chewing and swallowing can become difficult.
    • Piercing can cause blood loss and has a risk of blood borne infections like Hepatitis B.
    • Permanent numbness to the tongue.
    • Sepsis: The mouth contains bacteria that could pass into the blood stream whilst the piercing wound is new, causing sepsis.

    If your child has decided to have an oral piercing here are some tips:

    • Choose a place to have the piercing that is clean and registered with the local authority (this means it will be checked for basic hygiene levels).
    • Keep the mouth as clean as possible with regular brushing and by using an antiseptic mouthwash (an hour after brushing).
    • Use an antiseptic mouthwash (an hour after brushing).
    • See their dentist to discuss how to keep their mouth healthy.
    • Not ‘play or fiddle’ with the piercing as this increases damage to tooth enamel.
    • Follow the advice from Public Health England on care of oral piercing here.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below. 



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