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Keywords

Smokeless tobacco, STIs, Diabetes, Adolescents

 

Authors

  1. Percy, Melanie S. PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN

Abstract

Of all the health issues common to adolescents, oral health has not seemed to receive much attention. However, just as "eyes are the windows to the soul," the oral health of an adolescent can be a reliable and expedient indicator of general health. Lesions discovered during an oral exam can indicate systemic problems that may not otherwise be disclosed during the health history. Tobacco use, sexually transmitted infections, and type II diabetes can manifest in the mouth, and many of these lesions mimic other illnesses. It is essential that nurses who work with adolescents be aware of possible differential diagnoses beyond the typical canker sores, herpes simplex type I, and periodontal disease so commonly seen. Adolescents rarely enter the healthcare system, but school and camp nurses and nurse practitioners have access to teens on a regular basis. They can screen adolescents for oral health problems and teach them practices that may prevent health problems with lifetime consequences. Capitalizing on this opportunity to educate adolescents can be critical to their long-term health.