Teens and 20s

The teenage years and early twenties are exciting times of many changes - starting high school, first jobs, many new relationships, finishing high school, technical training, university, moving out of home, starting careers, engagements, weddings and young families. These are years of exploring new interests and testing boundaries. These changes and challenges can affect conditions in the mouth and can form habits that have long term effects on oral health.


More Tooth Decay!

Studies have shown that young adults (18 -24 year olds) in Australia have more tooth decay compared to Australian children at 12 years of age. It is thought that the many changes in the lives of young adults may result in less frequent tooth brushing, new eating patterns and less regular dental check-ups — changes that can increase the risk of tooth decay.

What to do - Remember the Basics!

More Tips

On occasions when a second daily brushing is not possible, fluoride can be applied simply by placing some fluoride toothpaste on a finger and smearing the paste on the teeth. Fluoride mouthiness can also be a source of a second fluoride application.

Look in your mouth regularly for early signs of tooth decay and other problems. Gently lift your upper lip and look for white spots near the gemlike. If you see white spots (or dark spots) near the gemlike, seek advice from a dental professional. Keep in mind that signs of tooth decay are not always visible. Often tooth decay starts between teeth. Dental professionals have the equipment and training necessary to thoroughly examine your mouth for decay and other problems.


Changing Diets and Eating Patterns

Some young adults become very conscious of good diet. Others start substituting fast foods for regular nutritious meals. 'Eating on the go' and frequent snacking can become common. Teeth can be affected by these eating patterns as well as by the types of foods and drinks that are consumed.

Acidic foods and drinks can 'erode' enamel from teeth if consumed too frequently or sipped over a long period of time and held in the mouth. Acidic drinks include soft drinks (diet and regular), wine, cordials, fruit juices, fruit drinks and sports drinks. Acidity can also be a problem with some foods that are considered 'healthy', such as citrus fruits or salad dressings made of vinegar, if such foods are consumed too frequently. The chart below shows the acidity of some common drinks and foods.

What To Do


Gum Problems

Early signs of gum disease bleeding gums when brushing or red and puffy gums, may arise if daily tooth brushing routines slip. Changing hormones, such as during pregnancy, can increase the likelihood that gum problems can develop.

What To Do


Bad Breath

Bad breath can have many causes such as smoking, gum disease, foods and drinks, or gastric reflux.

What To Do

Thorough daily cleaning, including brushing the tongue, is the best defence against bad breath. Do not use sugary mints or gum to freshen your breath as these can cause tooth decay if used frequently. On occasions when you do not have time to brush, use sugarless gum or mouthiness. If bad breath persists, a dental professional can help you identify the cause and find solutions.


Testing the Boundaries

Young adults may start smoking; may start drinking alcohol; may increase intake of caffeine by drinking coffee, tea, or energy drink: or may try recreational drugs. All these habits can affect the mooch. Oral problems linked with these habits include staining of teeth. reduced saliva, gum disease and oral cancer.



Some medicines can affect teeth and gums through high levels or 'hidden sugars' or by reducing saliva.inhalers, particularly those containing steroids, can cause erosion of tooth enamel. Oral contraceptives ('the pill') can increase the likelihood that gum problems can develop.

What To Do

Never change medicines without speaking with your doctor first. Ask your doctor about the sugar content of medicines or the affect on saliva. Sometimes another medicine can be substituted.


Strong Acids Can Cause Big Problems

Any condition where vomiting or gastric reflux occurs frequently - such as bulimia, nausea from pregnancy or nausea from drinking/ drugs - can cause rapid and severe erosion of tooth enamel.

What To Do


Sporting Interests

Some habits related to playing sport can affect the teeth. Dehydration from sporting activities can reduce the amount of saliva you produce. If athletes drink sugary or acidic drinks to replace fluids, the risk of tooth decay is increased. Many sports drinks are acidic and can erode the enamel on teeth. Energy drinks can be high in caffeine which can affect dental health by changing the way the body handles water and saliva. Some sports can put players at risk of having a tooth damaged or knocked out. Such damage can have life long consequences.

What To Do


Orthodontics (Braces)

The teen years are a common time for orthodontic treatment. It can be more difficult to keep teeth and gums healthy with all the wires and brackets needed to move the teeth. The Collate Oral Care brochure 'Brushing with Braces' gives details of how to care for your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment.


Tongue and Lip Piercing

There are risks of infection with any body piercing procedures. Individuals should ensure that instruments to be used have been properly sterilised beforehand to avoid the risk of hepatitis B and C, tetanus or HIV Barbells in the tongue can chip or break teeth. Gums can also be damaged if a piercing rubs against the gum. This is of particular concern with lip (la bret) piercings.

What To Do


Tooth Whitening

There is increasing interest in tooth whitening and many whitening products are available. Some products work by removing the stains that build up on the outside of teeth from smoking or drinking tea, coffee or red wine. This is the kind of stain that most whitening toothpastes remove. Care needs to be taken in selecting a whitening toothpaste that the ingredients used to remove the stains are not too abrasive.

Other whitening products contain peroxide and lighten the colour of the tooth itself Although new products are becoming available in pharmacies and upermarkets, most tooth whitening using peroxide is done by, or supervised by, a dental professional. This ensures that the product gives the best results. Some dental professionals use lasers for whitening teeth.

Whitening results can vary greatly depending on the type of tooth colour. Your dental professional can advise you further.

Temporary sensitivity is common during or after tooth whitening procedures. Fluoride products can be used to reduce the sensitiviry.