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7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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When looking back on your teenage years, you might think of your physical appearance - as in acne, braces, and sweating. But have you ever thought of cavities or tooth decay?

There are plenty of seemingly harmless or discreet activities teens do that affect their oral health and may lead to infections, painful toothaches or even life-threatening complications.

Since February is National Children's Dental Health Month, keep clicking as Dr. Doyle Williams, associate professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and chief dental officer at DentaQuest, explains 7 ways teens are destroying their teeth...

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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Bulimia

In addition to wreaking physical and emotional havoc, the eating disorder bulimia quite commonly causes widespread tooth decay. The problems arise when bulimics binge on high-carb foods, and the sugars in these foods weaken and erode tooth enamel and feed plaque-causing bacteria. Then, purging exposes weakened tooth enamel to stomach acid, which dissolves tooth enamel and further contributes to tooth decay.

It's no surprise that a long-time sufferer of bulimia will probably need to have dental repair work done frequently and repeatedly, especially on teeth that are exposed to harsh stomach acids from purging. If you or anyone you know suffers from bulimia, seek medical help immediately.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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Drinking bottled water

bottled waterTeens - like many adults - drink bottled water because it's a convenient way to hydrate on the go, whether at school or on the sports field. But bottled water may not have an adequate amount of fluoride, a natural mineral that helps prevent tooth decay and promotes overall oral health.

If teens are not drinking bottled water with fluoride, they should make sure to brush with fluoride toothpaste and talk to their dentist about a procedure called fluoride varnish applications, where fluoride is applied to the teeth to prevent decay.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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Chewing Tobacco

dipping tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, nicotine, tobacco, 4x3, stockWhether it's a way to discreetly get nicotine during class or because they think it's safer than cigarettes, some teens chew or dip smokeless tobacco. But teens should be forewarned: chewing tobacco can cause serious oral health problems.

Chewing tobacco contains grit and sand that scratches teeth and wears down enamel. It also causes permanent damage to gum tissue and supporting bone structure, which leads to loosened teeth that can be permanently lost. Increased tooth decay from sugars in the tobacco, as well as tooth discoloration and bad breath are also caused by chewing tobacco. And the most frightening of all - oral cancer, is much more prevalent among smokeless tobacco users.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

Drinking citrus juice and sports drinks

Citrus juices and sports drinks can cause serious damage to teeth, and it's not just because of the sugar - it's the acid. The citric and ascorbic acid in most sports drinks and citrus juices eat away at enamel. Teens often fall victim to enamel erosion since they tend to chug lots of these drinks.

Teens probably know that water is the best way to hydrate, but if they drink a citrus juice or sports drink, they shouldn't swish it around their mouths, but drink it quickly so it does not linger. If possible, teens should rinse their mouths with water afterward.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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Wearing mouth jewelry

Piercing the lip, tongue or cheeks may cause severe complications. After all, there are more bacteria in the mouth than humans on the earth. This enormous amount of bacteria often enters the opening of the piercing and causes painful infections.

The jewelry itself can also be an issue. If the piercing damages the gum through frequent contact, a teen can develop gum disease or receding gums that can never grow back. One study suggests that nearly 50 percent of those with mouth jewelry have at least one chipped tooth.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

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Chewing ice

hands, ice, ice cubes, cold, freezing, generic, 4x3It may sound strange, but teens sometimes crunch on ice to stave off hunger if they're on a diet or skip a meal due to a busy schedule. Some may also chew ice as a nervous habit.

The truth is that chewing ice, as harmless as it may seem, can lead to microfractures in teeth. These microfractures, which can be seen under an intense light, act as canals for bacteria to enter and linger, causing cavities. They also increase the chances of these teeth fracturing.

7 troublesome ways teens destroy their teeth

Bleachorexia

Teens are inundated with images of celebrities with pearly white teeth and seemingly perfect smiles. As a result, many teens have turned to bleaching their teeth to achieve that "perfect" smile. But many simply don't know when to stop.

Over-bleaching can erode the teeth, leaving a transparency on the edges of the teeth and breaking down the tooth's enamel. This makes teeth overly sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks, and can also make teeth glow under a black light.

Remember that bleaching is temporary and should only be done when following the manufacturers guidelines.

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