While it has always been difficult being an adolescent (teen/teenager), today’s adolescents currently face more challenges than in the past. Besides struggling with physical changes to their bodies, they must deal with emotional, psychological and social problems at school, home and among peers. Instead of worrying about acne, finding a date for the prom or making a team, they now face more pressing issues of choosing a career, acceptance into college and a more competitive job market. Additionally, the issues of cyberbullying and social acceptance may lead them to coping behaviors, resulting in life-threatening and life-changing concerns such as adolescent pregnancy, drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity and mental health problems. The health problems arising from these issues have associated dental implications. Even healthy and socially well-adapted teens can have a difficult time coping during this period of physical and emotional transition in their body and minds. The additional pressures at school and home add to the adolescents’ confusion and stress during this time.

Adolescence is the period between puberty and the completion of physical growth, roughly from 11 to 19 years of age.1 It represents the transition from childhood to adulthood and the growth and changes that occur is second only to that of infancy.

Adolescence is a period of preparation for adulthood with several key developmental experiences occurring. In addition to physical and sexual maturation, these experiences include development of social and economic independence, development of identity, acquirement of adult social skills and refinement of abstract reasoning. It is also a time during which the adolescent’s social environment exerts powerful pressures to engage in high risk behavior.2

Adolescents face pressures at school, from peers and family leading to use of alcohol, cigarettes, illegal and prescription drugs and initiating sexual relationships at an earlier age, resulting in unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. This course focuses on the issue of adolescent pregnancy and associated dental implications.