A Healthy Mouth is Important for your teenager
  • Tooth decay (cavities) is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Cavities can cause pain and lead to serious health problems.
  • Cavities can impact your child’s school attendance and self-esteem.
There’s good news. You can help your teenager prevent tooth decay!

Here are some tips to help you keep your teen cavity-free:


Encourage your teenager to take good care of his or her teeth.

  • Teens should brush their teeth 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time, especially before bed.
  • Teens should brush with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Teens should always use a soft bristle toothbrush.
  • Teens should never share toothbrushes. It spreads germs that can cause cavities, and infections that can lead to illness.
  • Teens should brush all surfaces and sides of the teeth and the tongue.
  • Teens should floss daily in-between the teeth to remove plaque from the sides of the teeth.
    • Replace your teen’s toothbrush every 3 months and especially after an illness (particularly strep throat). For more information on brushing, see the Keeping Your Smile Healthy (https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/oralhealth/Documents/KeepingYourSmileHealthyEnglish.pdf) brochure.
  • How to Brush
    • Place the toothbrush against the gum line at a 45-degree angle.
    • Use a small circular motion to brush the teeth.
    • o To brush the chewing surfaces of your teeth, hold the brush flat and brush back and forth.
    • Brush back and forth on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, holding the brush flat.
    • Do not forget the back of the teeth.
    • Brush the tongue.
  • Never share toothbrushes; it spreads germs.
  • The amount of fluoride toothpaste that should be used in brushing children’s teeth varies at different times in a child’s development.
    • Under Age 3 use a smear, about the size of a grain of rice.
    • Age 3 - 6 use a pea-size amount.
    • Spit, do not rinse, after brushing.
  • Teenagers care about how they look. Help your teen understand that poor oral hygiene can lead to stained teeth, bad breath, missing teeth, and serious dental and health problems.
  • Set a good example. If you take good care of your teeth, your teenager will see that you value good oral health and be more likely to take care of their own teeth.
  • Keep plenty of oral health-care supplies on hand, such as soft toothbrushes, floss (or plastic flossers) and good-tasting fluoride toothpaste.

Dental Visits

  • Teens should visit the dentist twice a year for a routine cleaning and dental examination.
  • Let your dentist or dental hygienist know if your teen has a medical condition or is taking medication.
  • If your teen has bleeding gums that continue longer than 2 weeks, make sure to see the dentist.
  • To find a dentist who takes Medicaid (Maryland Healthy Smiles).

Dental Sealants

  • Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars). (link to Mighty Tooth website: http://mightytooth.com/ )
  • Dental sealants prevent cavities.
  • The molars are most likely to get cavities because small amounts of food and sugars get trapped in the uneven surfaces on the top of the teeth.
  • Dental sealants prevent cavities by keeping food and sugars from getting trapped in the uneven surfaces on the top of the teeth.
  • Your teen should get dental sealants soon after their second set of molars come in.
  • Most dental insurance pays for sealants. Medicaid dental insurance for children, also known as Maryland Healthy Smiles, pays for dental sealants. To find a dentist who takes Medicaid, visit: (Provide link to Maryland Healthy Smiles: https://mmcp.health.maryland.gov/Pages/maryland-healthy-smiles-dental-program.aspx )
  • Many people don’t know that Medicaid offers dental insurance for children. If you do not have dental insurance for your teen and think they are eligible for Medicaid contact: Find a Dentis

Foods for healthy teeth

  • Limit sugar and eliminate sugary beverages such as soda or pop from your teen’s diet. Teens are drinking more soft drinks and sports beverages that contain high amounts of sugar than ever before, both in school and at home. Sugar is the jet fuel that creates cavities and drives childhood obesity.
  • Teach your teen to drink water or milk instead of sugary beverages.
  • Make sure your teen does not chew gum that contains sugar.
  • Read nutrition labels so you can make good food choices for your teen that are low in sugar.
  • Treats like candy, cake, cookies and ice cream should be given – only as treats!
  • Teens should eat well-balanced meals consisting of fresh foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, dairy, grains, lean meats, and fish unless they have dietary restrictions.


  • Food and plaque can get trapped in the tiny spaces between braces and wires, causing decay and enamel stains.
  • Your teen should brush after every meal and use a floss threader or special orthodontic floss (available at drug stores) at least once a day to clean between braces and under wires.
  • When your teen brushes, they should check their teeth in a mirror to make sure all food particles are gone and then rinse vigorously with water.
  • Sweets should be limited. Soft drinks, like soda or pop, should be eliminated from their diet
  • Sticky and chewy foods (caramel, taffy, chewing gum, dried fruits) can stick to braces and be difficult to remove.
  • Biting and chewing hard foods, such as candies, nuts, or ice, can break wires and loosen brackets.
  • Help your teen avoid damaging wires on the front teeth. Cut carrots, apples and other crunchy, healthy foods into bite-sized chunks before eating.

Oral Piercings

  • Oral piercings can be dangerous to your teen’s health.
  • Piercings can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing.
  • Oral piercings can cause swelling and infections.
  • It is possible for a piercing to cause your teen’s tongue to swell, potentially blocking their airway.
  • Oral piercings can lead to serious infections, like hepatitis or endocarditis.
  • It is possible to crack a tooth by biting down too hard on a piercing.
  • Repeatedly clicking oral jewelry against teeth can damage the teeth.
  • After a piercing, your teen may experience a numb tongue. This is caused by nerve damage that is usually temporary, but can sometimes be permanent.
  • An injured nerve may affect your child’s sense of taste, or how they move their mouth.
  • Piercings can cause damage blood vessels in the tongue, resulting in serious blood loss.
  • Oral jewelry can cause dental appointment difficulties. The jewelry can block the dentist’s ability to take X-rays of the mouth and teeth.
  • If you see any signs of infection in your child’s mouth, such as swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking, or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing, call your doctor.


  • Contact sports can cause oral injuries. Some injuries can be lifelong and cause permanent damage.
  • Your teen should always wear a mouth guard during physical activity to prevent injuries, especially if they have braces.
  • A mouth guard can be custom-fitted by a dentist or bought at a store.
  • Teens should keep their mouth guard clean by rinsing it often and storing it in a ventilated container.


Cigarettes and chewing tobacco are harmful to oral health as well as overall health. https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/ohpetup/Pages/tob_home.aspx

Tobacco products can cause:

  • Oral cancer
  • Stained (yellow) teeth and tongue
  • Dulled sense of taste and smell
  • Slow healing after a tooth extraction
  • Difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems
  • Bad breath


  • During puberty, your teen’s gums may become irritated more easily. This is known as “puberty gingivitis.”
  • Puberty gingivitis can cause red, swollen gums that bleed more easily than usual.
  • If your teen experiences bleeding gums that continue longer than 2 weeks, see the dentist.

Many people don’t know about Medicaid dental coverage. If you do not have dental insurance for your child, are pregnant, or are considering pregnancy, contact Maryland Healthy Smiles to see if you or your child qualifies for dental insurance.