Teen Trends and Teeth: An In-Depth Look at Adolescent Oral Health Risks (Part One)

A teenager smiling and showing her healthy teeth.Welcome to the first part of our educational series designed to help parents and teens navigate the complex world of adolescent oral health. As our children grow and form their identities, they often adopt habits that, while considered “cool” or fashionable, can have serious implications for their dental health.

In this series, we aim to shed light on these practices, delving into the science behind them to reveal their hidden dangers. Our goal is to provide you, as parents, with the knowledge and resources you need to guide your children toward making informed decisions about their oral health.

We understand that discussing these topics with your teens is not always easy. That’s why we’re here to provide you with evidence-based information, backed by scientific research and studies, to help you have these crucial conversations.

In today’s post, we’ll explore two common habits that many teens adopt, often without fully understanding the specific risks to their oral health: oral piercing and smoking.

Remember, knowledge is power. In this case, it could be the key to protecting your child’s smile. So, let’s get started.

The Hidden Health Risks of Oral Piercing

Oral piercing, a popular form of self-expression among adolescents, may seem harmless. However, it’s essential to understand that this form of body modification comes with significant risks, particularly regarding dental health.

From infections and swelling to damage to teeth and gums, the potential complications are numerous, often serious, and not always limited to the mouth.

Infection and Swelling

The mouth is home to a vast array of bacteria, and introducing a piercing can provide an ideal entry point for these bacteria to cause an infection. The warm, moist environment of the mouth can facilitate the growth of bacteria, leading to infections that can be severe and hard to treat.

Additionally, the trauma of the piercing can cause significant swelling, which in extreme cases can even impede breathing. A recent study found that complications such as swelling, infection, and bleeding were reported in 50% of individuals with oral piercings.

Damage to Teeth and Gums

Teenage boy at the dentist.Oral piercings, especially tongue piercings, can cause a range of physical damage. For instance, the constant clicking of the metal jewelry against teeth can lead to cracked or chipped teeth, injuries to the gums, and can interfere with regular oral functions such as speech, chewing, and swallowing.

A study found that individuals with tongue piercings were more likely to experience gum recession and tooth chipping.

Increased Risk of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Oral piercings, particularly tongue piercings, can significantly increase the risk of periodontal disease, a serious gum infection that damages gums and can eventually destroy the jawbone if left untreated. 

The piercing site can serve as a reservoir for harmful bacteria, including those that cause periodontal disease. Over time, research has shown that the presence of the piercing can lead to a shift from bacteria with moderate periodontopathogenic potential to those with high periodontopathogenic potential, further increasing the risk of periodontal disease.

Increased Risk of Oral Lichenoid Lesions

Oral piercings, particularly those made of metal, can lead to the development of oral lichenoid lesions, an inflammatory condition of the mucous membranes in the mouth.

Studies have found that the piercing site can serve as a reservoir for metallic particles, which can be found inside the epithelial cells exfoliated from the mucosa surrounding the piercing.

These particles, which often contain elements like aluminum, tungsten, and molybdenum, can potentially contribute to the development of lichenoid lesions. Research has also shown that the risk increases over time, as surface finish defects on the piercing jewelry become more prevalent.

The Impact of Smoking on Adolescent Oral Health

As we continue our exploration of factors that can impact adolescent oral health, we turn our attention to a habit that is unfortunately common among teenagers: smoking.

While the general health risks associated with smoking are well-known, you should know that smoking can also have severe implications for oral health. So let’s delve into the specific ways smoking can harm adolescents’ oral health, backed by scientific evidence and research studies.

Harms Gum Health

Smoking can lead to gum disease, also known as periodontal disease mentioned above, which is a leading cause of tooth loss. According to a prominent 2007 study, smokers are two to seven times more likely to develop periodontitis than non-smokers – a significant increase.

The risk is so much higher due to how smoking affects the normal function of gum tissue cells, making smokers more susceptible to infections like periodontal disease. For instance, smoking impairs blood flow to the gums, which affects wound healing and makes it harder for the body to fight infections.

Oral Cancer Risks Increase

Smoking is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have found that tobacco smoke contains over 60 known carcinogens. Prolonged exposure to these substances can lead to mutations in the cells of the oral cavity, leading to cancer.

The risk of developing oral cancer is proportional to the duration and frequency of smoking, so the longer you or your child maintain this habit, the greater the risk.

Tooth Discoloration and Decay

Another well-documented oral health risk is that smoking leads to tooth discoloration. Many studies have demonstrated how nicotine and tar in tobacco cause teeth to turn yellow or brown, a phenomenon known as tobacco-induced dental staining.

However, while discoloration is a relatively well-known side effect of smoking cigarettes, you might not have known that smoking can lead to tooth decay. The same study found that smokers were significantly more likely to have dental caries than non-smokers.

Poor Oral Hygiene and Bad Breath

While it may be secondary to threats such as oral cancer, you should also be concerned about how smoking affects general oral hygiene. For instance, the habit often causes bad breath.

Research has found that smoking alters the oral microbiome, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria that produce foul-smelling compounds. Additionally, smoking dries out the mouth, which can exacerbate bad breath.

So yes, it’s not necessarily the most alarming news, but it’s another factor making them a poor choice for oral health.

Protecting Adolescent Oral Health: A Shared Responsibility

In conclusion, oral piercings and smoking pose significant risks to adolescent oral health. As parents, it’s crucial to be aware of these risks and to have open, honest discussions with your teens about them.

At Ontario Kids N Braces, we understand the unique challenges adolescents face regarding oral health. We’re committed to providing high-quality dental care and education to help your child maintain a healthy smile.

Whether it’s preventative and routine measures to avoid the onset of oral health issues or reactive treatments to address existing problems, our team of specialists is here to help. We offer a range of services and orthodontic treatments that can alleviate discomfort and improve your child’s oral health – no matter the cause.

Remember, protecting your child’s oral health is a shared responsibility. By working together, we can help your child make informed decisions that will benefit their oral health now and in the future.

To learn more about how we can support your child’s oral health journey, contact us today regarding any problems or questions you may have.

Remember, a healthy smile is a powerful asset. Let’s work together to protect it.



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