Skip to main content

News and Views

Back to search results

Youth and adolescent oral health

Tuesday, August 1, 2023 | Posted in GEHA Connection Dental Network News

According to the World Health Organization, an adolescent is someone within the ages of 10-19 years while a youth is someone within the ages of 15-24 years.1 Oral health is an important part of overall health for this age group. Adolescence marks a period in an individual’s development where significant growth may occur. It is also the period to form long term positive health habits which may enable a healthy lifestyle and support good health well into adulthood.

Common oral health concerns

  • Orthodontic treatment: When teeth are classified with malocclusion2. Malocclusion may affect oral hygiene, eating, speaking, and appearance.2,3
  • Restorative treatment: Tooth decay is common among adolescents and youths. In fact, among individuals aged 12-19, about 57% have had decay in their adult teeth.4
  • Evaluation and possible treatment need for 3rd molars: The third molars usually erupt around the ages of 17-21.5 When there is inadequate space to grow, third molar teeth may become impacted. Impacted third molars may cause pain, tooth decay, gum disease, infection and tumors.2 Every provider must weigh the risks of removal and active monitoring.8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
  • Tobacco and e-cigarettes: During adolescence some individuals may first experience exposure to tobacco use (including smoking, dip, chew and snuff), e-cigarettes and vapes which can contain nicotine. While the harmful effects of tobacco on oral health is far more known, vaping is a relatively new discussion in comparison. National tobacco cessation resources are available at 1.800.QUIT.NOW

Additional reasons to quit include: 2,6,7

  • Tobacco use is harmful to overall health
  • Delayed wound healing following extractions or oral surgery
  • Effects of vaping results in toxic exposures
  • Explosion of vaping devices
  • Oral cancer
  • Periodontal infection
  • Halitosis
  • Stained teeth

Guidance for good oral and overall health for adolescents and youths

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet – Eat healthy fruits and vegetables.
    • Limit eating and drinking acidic and high sugar foods and drinks
    • Spend time making healthy food choices
  • Be physically active – establishing healthy routines early may reduce risk of inflammation
    • Wear mouthguards to protect teeth during sporting activities
    • Clean mouthguards as part of routine oral care
  • Sleep well
    • Avoid harmful behaviors such as tobacco use and substance use and seek support for quitting harmful behaviors
  • Seek regular dental visits
    • Routine screenings promotes health
  • Practice good oral care including routine dental hygiene
    • Spend time toothbrushing, flossing, interdental cleaning, and use topical fluorides


  • Proffit WR, Fields HW Jr, Moray LJ. Prevalence of malocclusion and orthodontic treatment need in the United States: estimates from the NHANES III survey. Int J Adult Orthodon Orthognath Surg. 1998;13(2):97-106.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: dental sealant use and untreated tooth decay among US school-aged children. MMWR. 2016;65(41):1141-1145.
  • Daniel L. Overbeek, Alexandra P. Kass, Laura E. Chiel, Edward W. Boyer & Alicia M. H. Casey (2020) A review of toxic effects of electronic cigarettes/vaping in adolescents and young adults, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 50:6, 531-538, DOI: 10.1080/10408444.2020.1794443
  • La Valle A, O'Connor R, Brooks A, Freij R. Maxillofacial injury related to an exploding e-cigarette. BMJ Case Rep. 2021;14(1):e239677. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1136/bcr-2020-239677
  • Ghaeminia H, Nienhuijs ME, Toedtling V, et al. Surgical removal versus retention for the management of asymptomatic disease-free impacted wisdom teeth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020;5(5):CD003879. Published 2020 May 4. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003879.pub5
  • Huang GJ, Cunha-Cruz J, Rothen M, et al. A prospective study of clinical outcomes related to third molar removal or retention. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(4):728-734. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301649
  • Cunha-Cruz J, Rothen M, Spiekerman C, et al. Recommendations for third molar removal: a practice-based cohort study. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(4):735-743. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301652
  1.  Tulloch JF, Antczak-Bouckoms AA, Ung N. Evaluation of the costs and relative effectiveness of alternative strategies for the removal of mandibular third molars. Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 1990;6(4):505–515. 
  2.  Song F, O’Meara S, Wilson P, Golder S, Kleijnen J. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prophylactic removal of wisdom teeth. Health Technol Assess. 2000;4(15):1–55. 
  3. Morant H. NICE issues guidelines on wisdom teeth. BMJ. 2000;320(7239):890A.