If you are a teenager or young adult, you need to protect your mouth and teeth by maintaining good oral health. Although regular brushing is important, the oral health of those in this age group is also often associated with risk factors such as diet, smoking and alcohol and mouth and tongue piercings.
Cavities (tooth decay)
Anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including teenagers and older adults.
When you consume food and drinks that are sugary or starchy (high in carbohydrates), the bacteria that naturally live in your mouth and in plaque, break down to form acids. These acids attack and dissolve the outer surface of the tooth (enamel). This process is known as demineralisation.
The first sign of demineralisation is a chalky white spot. At this stage, the decay process can be reversed. If you suspect you have the start of tooth decay, make an appointment to see your dentist.
More information on cavities/tooth decay and the symptoms (Mayo Clinic website)
Preventing tooth decay with healthy eating
- Limit sugars and processed foods to mealtimes (rather than between meals).
- Choose snacks such as cheese, natural yoghurt, fresh fruit and vegetables, dry biscuits, nuts and wholegrain bread.
Preventing tooth decay with healthy drinking
- Choose water (particularly tap water) and plain milk both with and between meals.
- Limit soft drinks, sports drinks, juice, flavoured water and other carbonated drinks as they can cause decay and dissolve the tooth enamel.
- Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow and help protect teeth from decay.
Preventing tooth decay with good teeth cleaning
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush that has small, compact head and soft bristles. When the bristles appear ‘shaggy’ it is time to change toothbrushes.
Training and sports - minimising injuries to the mouth and teeth
- Wear a professionally fitted mouthguard when training and playing sport where there is risk of oral injury.
- If you smoke, quit for good.
- If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.
- Protect your mouth and face from the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Have regular oral health checkups – don’t wait for a problem.
- Seek advice from an oral health professional about how often you should have checkups.