Teenager Holding a SkateboardRisk-taking is a normal part of teenage development—and often a growth opportunity for parents, too! Heads up to handling some common dental risks of adolescence so you both stay smiling.

Wisdom Comes With Age

The wisdom teeth, the third molars, are the last to emerge. They appear in the teen years sometimes two, sometimes three or four, or sometimes none at all. In a too-small jaw, the risk is they’ll not be able to erupt, and cause pain and swelling from impaction. Or they’ll push their way in anyhow, crowding and squeezing neighboring teeth out of alignment. Routine X-rays, starting at around age 12, can head off trouble by determining if there’s adequate room in the mouth for any wisdom teeth waiting to grow up.

Guarding the Teen Mouth

Teen athletes thrive on the risks of competitive performance. For them, protecting their mouth is less important than dogging their opponent. That’s a high-risk misperception: the National Youth Sports Foundation estimates that over 5 million teeth are knocked out each year during sports activities. Ouch!

Three types of mouthguards are available to prevent dental trauma: stock, boil-and-bite, and custom-made. The stock and boil-and-bite options provide some safety at low cost, but they are often uncomfortable and interfere with breathing and talking—and are bound to spend more time on the sidelines than in the mouth. A mouthguard constructed by a dentist and custom fit from a dental impression provides the best result: wearable, durable protection that will actually see some play.