Welcome to Healthy Dudley. This is the new public health website.

Oral Health for teens

The transition from childhood to adulthood can bring new oral health challenges.

This page will give lots of information for parents to support teenagers with their oral health.

A young girl smiles, revealing her teeth.

When do permanent (adult) teeth begin to appear?

It is expected that all permanent (adult) teeth will have come through by the time a young person is 12-14 years old. There are 32 permanent teeth in total. By the age of 12, most children have all their adult teeth except for their third molars (wisdom teeth), which appear when they are around 17-21 years old.

It is important when brushing, that young people take extra care around loose teeth or sensitive areas. But let loose teeth fall out on their own. If a young person pulls out a tooth before it’s ready to fall out, it can injure the gums and nearby teeth. It can also cause pain and infection.

When should I take my teenager to the dentist?

Dental check-ups are important for children and young people because they make sure teeth are growing as they should and can help spot any issues early.

It is important a dental check-up is seen as positive experience for a young person, so if you are particularly anxious yourself about the dentist, it can be helpful to get another adult to go with them too.

It is advised the time between appointments is no more than 12 months whilst your child is under 18.

If you don’t have a dentist, you can use the Find a Dentist website.

How much will it cost to take my teenager to the dentist?

Dental treatment is free on the NHS for children under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education. It is also free if you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months.

If anyone in your family needs to see a dentist urgently, contact a local NHS dentist or call NHS111.

Tips for teenagers cleaning their teeth

Tooth brushing is important for preventing tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.

Teenagers will often forget about brushing their teeth or can choose not to brush them at times because they do not understand the importance of it.

It is important to encourage teenagers to brush their teeth twice a day. If they seem resistant to tooth brushing try reminding them that slacking on their oral hygiene could mean they get yellow staining on their teeth or bad breath, as well as cavities.

If they need reminding about how best to brush their teeth, here are the basic steps to remember:

  1. Use a pea-sized amount of adult fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Brush teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day- once before bed and one other time.
  3. If using a manual toothbrush, move the brush in gentle circles. If using an electric toothbrush, move the brush gently across the teeth.
  4. Remember to brush the tongue.
  5. Spit out the toothpaste once finished. Do not rinse with water as this will wash the fluoride from the toothpaste away. Fluoride helps to build strong, healthy teeth.
  6. Toothbrushing alone will not clean the space between teeth. Once a day, use dental floss to clean in-between teeth, once teeth have been brushed. It is usual to feel some discomfort when you first begin flossing, but with practice, it gets easier to find the right amount of pressure to remove plaque or food that is left behind, without causing pain.
teeth brushing demo
a pea-sized toothpaste on a toothbrush

For more information about our local toothbrushing scheme, please visit Dudley’s Community toothbrush scheme.

Dudley's community toothbrush scheme

What issues can teenagers have with wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 21. Wisdom teeth often cause problems for teenagers, or young adults because there is not much room in the mouth which means they can struggle to come through the gum or come through in the wrong position.

Even when wisdom teeth come through correctly, they can cause discomfort until they are settled in the mouth. If your child experiences pain in the back of their mouth it is recommended to go and see a dentist. They may need their wisdom teeth removing if there is pain, infection, gum disease, tooth decay or damage to teeth next to the wisdom teeth.

How can teeth be protected when doing physical activity?

It is very common for teenagers to play contact sports like rugby or hockey for example. It is important when playing any contact sport that you encourage teenagers to wear a mouthguard.

Mouthguards stop teeth from being knocked out or broken and also can prevent a broken or dislocated jaw when playing contact sports.

STOP being spelt out by broken cigarettes

What effects can smoking, alcohol and drugs have on oral health?

Smoking can cause gum disease, as well as tooth loss, staining and bad breath.

Alcohol increases the risk of tooth decay. Some alcoholic drinks have a lot of sugar in them, and some alcoholic drinks may contain acids so can cause tooth decay if drunk often and in large quantities.

If you smoke and drink alcohol, you are more at risk of having mouth cancer.

Illegal drugs can lead to a range of health problems and oral health related issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, dry mouth, bad breath and teeth grinding.

It is important teenagers know that their dentist may ask them questions about their lifestyle choices and general health as these choices may be affecting their oral health.

Stop smoking support for young people

Alcohol awareness for young people

What should my teenager be drinking to look after their teeth?

Drinking tap water throughout the day is really important for maintaining good oral health. Tap water has fluoride in it which helps protect teeth from decay.  Remember that usually shop-bought bottled water does not have fluoride in it, so it is recommended that tap water is drunk whenever possible.

Fruit juice and sweet drinks like sports and energy drinks can increase the risk of tooth decay due to their high sugar content so should be avoided where possible or kept to mealtimes.

Even if a product is labelled as ‘no added sugar’, it is important to know that fruit juice still will contain natural sugar, which can cause tooth decay. Similarly, diet soft drinks contain acids which can also damage teeth.

Alcohol increases the risk of tooth decay. Some alcoholic drinks have a lot of sugar in them, and some alcoholic drinks may contain acids so can cause tooth decay if drunk often and in large quantities.

A woman is pouring water from a tap.

What should my teenager be eating to help look after their teeth?

Encouraging young people to eat a balanced and healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, protein, dairy and carbohydrates, but low in fats, sugar and salt can help to lower their risk of having tooth decay.

Eating sugar is a major cause of tooth decay. It is not just how much sugar you eat, but also when you eat it can be just as important.

For most people, it’s hard to cut out sweets completely. So, trying to follow these more realistic guidelines so not eating sugary foods between meals is a good place to start.

When we eat sugary foods within a meal, they are less harmful to our teeth because our mouths make more saliva during eating, which washes away the sugar and bacteria.

Eating sugary foods at night can be the most damaging, especially if you don’t brush your teeth afterward, because we don’t make as much saliva when we are sleeping.

Food packaging can be confusing because sugar is written in a lot of different ways. These could include glucose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, honey or syrups to name a few. Even if products are advertised as natural sugars, they can still be harmful to teeth.

For young people aged 11 years and over, the recommended maximum intake of free sugars is no more than 30g per day, which is equal to 7 sugar cubes.

We recommend having in the house some tooth friendly.

We would suggest:

  • Fresh fruit, such as an appleFruit and vegetables
  • Raw vegetables
  • Pieces of cheese
  • Breadsticks
  • Pitta breads or crumpets
  • Plain popcorn
  • Sandwiches filled with cheese, ham, chicken, houmous or cream cheese and cucumber