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Do-It-Yourself Braces: Just Say No and Save Your Child’s Smile

As Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crafts and projects are climbing in popularity among teens, the trend has surprisingly migrated into the field of orthodontics. Believe it or not, teenagers across the United States are taking their smile into their own hands. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, almost 13% of dentists are seeing patients who have tried DIY teeth straightening – most of which have experienced irreversible damage.

In desperate attempts to straighten their smiles, teenagers are resorting to rubber bands, dental floss, fishing line, paper clips, and even homemade retainers. Although these methods can potentially move teeth, dentists everywhere are warning against these dangerous materials.

Initially gaining traction with teens on social media, DIY braces can lead to serious infection and permanent damage in the teeth and gums. Constant pressure, unsupervised by an orthodontic expert, can cause teeth to become extruded or out of socket. Tiny hair rubber bands are known for sliding upward and disappearing into the gums, becoming embedded in the gum tissue.

Many of these cases cannot be repaired, meaning patients who originally tried DIY braces to save time and money are now required to undergo complete oral reconstruction surgery. Overall, patients are paying almost double of the initial cost of orthodontic treatment just to reverse severe damage.

The number of teens attempting DIY braces is so alarming that the American Association of Orthodontists has reissued a public service announcement to warn teenagers of the dangers of this trend.

If you think your child is attempting to straighten his or her smile with DIY braces, put a stop to it immediately and schedule an appointment with your dentist. It could save your child’s smile!

Student Mental Health – How to Get Help When They Need It

Mental health problems are as common among students as they are in the general population.

But it’s not just students who have a diagnosed mental health condition that can benefit from counselling.

Alan Percy, head of counselling at the University of Oxford, says: “A lot of difficulties are not caused by medical problems, but by normal life problems, such as family or relationship issues, or anxiety about their work.

“While these problems are distressing, through counselling we can help students to understand them, and then suggest strategies for dealing with their feelings.”

When to get help

It’s normal to feel down, anxious or stressed from time to time, but if these feelings affect your daily activities, including your studies, or don’t go away after a couple of weeks, get help.

Signs of depression and anxiety include:

  • feeling low
  • feeling more anxious or agitated than usual
  • losing interest in life
  • losing motivation

Some people also:

  • put on or lose weight
  • stop caring about the way they look or about keeping clean
  • do too much work
  • stop attending lectures
  • become withdrawn
  • have sleep problems

Where to go for help

Talk to someone

Telling someone how you feel, whether it’s a friend, counsellor or doctor, may bring an immediate sense of relief.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust first, such as a friend, member of your family or a tutor.

This is especially important if your studies are being affected. Many mild mental health problems can be resolved this way.

University counselling services

Many colleges and most universities have a free and confidential in-house counselling service you can access, with professionally qualified counsellors and psychotherapists.

You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment in the counselling service section of your university’s website. This free service in universities is available to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Many universities also have a mental health adviser who can help you access the support you need.

As well as counselling or therapy, you may also be entitled to “reasonable adjustments” such as extra time in exams, extensions on coursework, and specialist mental health mentor support.

Student-led services

Many student unions also offer student-led services. Although the students involved aren’t qualified counsellors, you may prefer to talk about problems such as stress and depression with another student.

Online self-help

There are also online self-help services you may like to explore, such as NHS Choices’ Moodzone and the Students Against Depression website.

When to see your GP (* physician)

For more serious or longer-lasting mental health symptoms, see your GP as you may need prescribed treatment or referral to a specialist.

If you have or develop a mental health condition that requires treatment, it’s important to arrange continuity of care between your college doctor and your family GP.

A mental health adviser can support this communication. Your condition may worsen if moving between university and home results in a gap in treatment.

Therapy and counselling

Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers an opportunity to explore the underlying issues of your unhappiness or any worries you have in a safe environment, including helping you develop ways of coping.

As well as university or college counselling services, you might be able to refer yourself for NHS counselling. Search for psychological therapy services** in the UK to find out what’s available in your area.

The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN)** represents the network of mental health advisers working in higher education dedicated to providing practical support to UK students experiencing mental health difficulties.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

At all UK universities, you have the opportunity to apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)**.

Your mental health adviser can help you apply for a DSA, but you will need to provide evidence of a long-term mental health condition.

The DSA pays for:

  • specialist equipment, such as a computer, if you need it because of your mental health condition or another disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel as a result of your mental health condition or disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

Even if you decide not to apply for a DSA, the mental health adviser will still be able to let you know what support is available.

Drugs, drink and mental health in students

If you’re feeling low or stressed, you may be tempted to drink more alcohol or relax by smoking cannabis.

Consider how this may make you feel in the longer term though, as your mood could slip, making you feel a lot worse.

Some cannabis users can have unpleasant experiences, including confusion, hallucinationsanxiety and paranoia.

There’s also growing evidence that long-term cannabis use can double your risk of developing a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

Ecstasy and amphetamines can also bring on schizophrenia, and amphetamines can induce other forms of psychosis.

Any underlying mental disorder could be worsened by drug and alcohol use.

Read more articles about drugs.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States





Is Your Teenager In An Abusive Relationship? You CAN Help!

Violence can happen in teenage relationships, so make sure you know the signs and can help your child.

Abuse in relationships – including those between teenagers – can happen to men and boys, but it’s much more likely to happen to women and girls. It also happens in same-sex relationships.

Different types of abuse

Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, and pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity.

Emotional and verbal abuse involves a person:

  • saying things that make their partner feel small or stupid
  • pressuring their partner to do things they don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • checking up on their partner – for instance, by text – all the time to find out where they are and who they’re with
  • threatening to hurt their partner or someone close to their partner, including pets

Warning signs your teen is being abused

Signs of abuse can include your child:

  • no longer hanging out with their circle of friends
  • not doing as well at school, or skipping school altogether
  • constantly checking their phone
  • being withdrawn and quieter than usual
  • being angry and becoming irritable when asked how they’re doing
  • making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • having unexplained scratches or bruises
  • showing changes in mood or personality
  • using drugs or alcohol

Warning signs your teen’s partner is abusive

It’s a sign of controlling or violent behaviour if your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • gets extremely jealous
  • monitors texts, messages, calls and emails, and gets angry if there isn’t an instant response
  • has trouble controlling his or her emotions, particularly anger
  • stops your child seeing or talking with friends and family as much as they’d like
  • uses force during an argument
  • blames others for his or her problems or feelings
  • is verbally abusive
  • shows threatening behaviour towards others

How to help

  • Talk to your child about what’s OK and what’s not in a relationship. Some teenagers believe violence is “just the way things are”, or is “just messing around”.
    • Make sure they understand that violent or controlling behaviour is not OK, and that nobody should put up with it.
  • Some girls believe that if their boyfriend gets jealous or checks up on them, it means he loves them.
    • Let your teenage girl know that this kind of behaviour is not about love or romance, it’s about control and her boyfriend making her behave in the way he wants.
  • Some boys might believe that controlling their girlfriend’s behaviour makes them more of a man.
    • Make sure your teenage boy knows that using violence does not make someone a man.

Talking tips

Before you start the conversation with your teenager, think through what your concerns are.

Consider talking about it confidentially with someone like your GP (*doctor) or a friend. This will help you understand your own feelings so you won’t be too emotional when you talk to your child.

Try not to talk to your teenager in a confrontational way. Say you’re worried about them and ask if everything’s OK.

Even if they don’t talk to you at this point, they might go away and think about things, and talk to you later.

Show your support

Tell your child they can always come to you, no matter what.

Victims of abuse can feel ashamed and believe (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Make it clear that being abused is never your child’s fault, and you will help them if they come to you.

You can also tell them about helplines, such as ChildLine (0800 11 11)** or the NSPCC (0808 800 5000)** in the UK, which they can call if they don’t feel they can talk to you.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





How to Cope With First-Year College Stress: Self-Help Tips

Starting university can be a stressful experience. How you cope with the stress is the key to whether or not it develops into a health problem.

Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. In small amounts it’s good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, including in exams.

Leaving home to start your studies can involve some stressful changes. These might include moving to a new area, meeting new people and managing on a tight budget.

Signs you might be stressed

The first signs of stress are:

Too much stress can lead to physical and psychological problems, such as:

  • anxiety – feelings ranging from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic
  • dry mouth
  • churning stomach
  • palpitations – pounding heart
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • depression

Things that can help with stress

Short periods of stress are normal, and can often be resolved by something as simple as completing a task – which cuts down your workload – or by talking to others and taking time to relax.

Some of these suggestions might help:

  • Work out what it is that’s making you anxious. For example, is it exams, or money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you’re under.
  • Try to have a more healthy lifestyle. Eat well, get enough sleepexercise regularly, cut down on alcohol, and spend some time socialising as well as working and studying.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack or are in a stressful situation, try to focus on something outside yourself, or switch off by watching TV or chatting to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises may help.
  • Try to resolve personal problems by talking to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.
  • Read about how to cope with the stress of exams.

For more tips on beating stress, check out these 10 stress busters.

The NHS Choices Moodzone has eight free mental wellbeing podcasts or audio guides that may help you when your mood is low or you’re facing an anxious time in your life.

This anxiety podcast tackles stress that arises around revision time and exams.

Professional help for student stress

Long-term stress and anxiety is difficult to resolve by yourself, and it’s often best for you to seek help.

Don’t struggle alone. Anxiety can seriously affect your academic performance, and that’s not only distressing for you, but means a lot of wasted effort.

Find out more about tackling student mental health issues.





How to Help Your Child Live With Kidney Disease

Having kidney disease affects children in many ways. They may need to take medicines and alter their diet, and can also face challenges at school.

It’s only natural to worry if you have a child with kidney disease. Parents often have questions about their child’s health. We answer some of the most common ones.

It can be helpful for parents to talk to members of the renal team, such as the social worker or clinical psychologist. Other parents and patient support groups may also be able to help.

Can I give a kidney to my child?

As a parent, your first instinct may be to deal with your child’s condition by giving them one of your kidneys. Around half of all kidney transplants carried out are now from living donors.

Living organ donation usually involves one family member donating an organ to another family member or a partner. The relative is usually blood related – a parent, brother, sister or child. It’s possible for a healthy person to lead a completely normal life with only one working kidney.

Considering donating a kidney is a big step. It’s major surgery, and will only go ahead once strict rules are met and after a thorough process of assessment and discussion. Talk to your child’s renal team if you want to explore whether donation could be an option for you and your child.

Will my child grow normally?

The kidneys play an important role in a child’s growth, so children with kidney disease may not grow as well as their peers. To make the problem worse, their illness can make them feel sick, alter their sense of taste and reduce their appetite.

How to help

It’s important to make sure that children with kidney disease get enough nutrition. Talk to your child’s doctor about ways to help boost growth. Taking supplements and limiting certain foods while eating more fats and carbohydrates to increase calorie intake can help. Some children benefit from injections of growth hormone.

Will my child have a problem making friends?

Children with kidney disease can have trouble making friends and fitting in with children of their own age. This can be because they miss time off school.

It can also be because of a child’s natural concern that their kidney disease makes them different from other children. Children can lack confidence if they’re small for their age and their appearance has changed (for example, if they are bloated) as a result of their condition and its treatment.

How to help

Find ways to encourage your child to meet other children and make friends. They can meet other children through nurseries, playgroups, school and after-school clubs. Having children over for tea and sleepovers and, in the case of older children, using social networking sites, such as Facebook, can help encourage them to make friends.

Will my child have difficulties at school?

Kidney disease itself doesn’t usually cause problems with learning, but children who have had kidney disease from a young age may spend so much time in hospital that they struggle with schoolwork. They usually catch up as they get older.

How to help

If your child misses school, do all you can to help them with their schoolwork. Talk to their teachers as early as possible to make a homework plan that your child can get on with while they’re in hospital.

  • Make sure your child is getting as much extra educational support as possible from the school. The hospital teachers can also help and advise you.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s development or learning, talk to your child’s school.

Read more about how to talk to the school about your child’s health condition.

Should children with kidney disease do sport?

It’s tempting to be overprotective of a sick child. In general, sport and exercise is great for children with kidney disease. But bear in mind that they may get tired more easily than their friends and classmates.

How to help

Encourage your child to do all the activities their friends do. If your child is on dialysis, swimming might not be possible. In some cases, particularly after a kidney transplant, children should also avoid contact sports. Otherwise, they can safely take part in most sports.

What if my child refuses their medicine?

Taking medicines is part of life for most children and young people with kidney disease. They can find this a strain and may stop taking their medicines.

How to help

  • Try to work out why they don’t want to take their medicines. Children, especially teenagers, may stop taking their medicines because they can cause unflattering changes in appearance.
  • Talk to them about why taking their medicines is important for their health and what will happen if they don’t. Be careful not to scare your child into taking their medicines.
  • Explaining to older children and teenagers why they need to be responsible for taking their own medicines can make them more likely to keep taking their tablets.
  • It can also help to involve the renal team that’s looking after your child, as they will have lots of experience of tackling this problem with other children and young people.
  • It’s very important that you let the renal team know immediately if you think your child isn’t taking their medicines.

Who can my child talk to about kidney disease?

All children’s kidney teams have different professionals on hand to chat to your child. These include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, play specialists, teachers and some youth workers.

How to help

Arrange for your child to talk to a member of the kidney team. It can also help if they meet a young adult who had chronic kidney disease during childhood, or another child of their own age. You can find contacts through your doctor, local support group, or the British Kidney Patient Association (BKPA)**.

How do I explain kidney disease to my other children?

Brothers and sisters of children with kidney disease may feel left out and worried. They need time with you to talk over their worries and feel part of the overall plan.

How to help

Your child’s kidney team is there to help the whole family. Ask the play specialist, psychologist or social worker to spend time talking to your child’s brothers and sisters and answering their questions.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States, the National Kidney Foundation  and the American Kidney Fund





Condoms: Knowing these Facts Could Keep Your Teen Safe

There are a lot of myths about condoms, so make sure that you are aware of the facts before you have sex.

MYTH: It’s safer if you use two condoms.
TRUTH: No it isn’t. Using two condoms at once is a really bad idea, whether it’s two male condoms or a male and female condom. It increases the chances of them ripping. Only use one at a time.

condom factsMYTH: Condoms break easily.
TRUTH: No they don’t. To avoid a condom breaking, you need to put it on carefully, ensuring there’s no airbubble at the end. Be careful of sharp nails, jewelry or teeth. If the condom won’t roll down, it’s the wrong way round. Throw this condom away and start again with a new one as there could be semen on the tip of the previous condom.

If a condom breaks and you’re not using any other contraception, go to a clinic, pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible and ask about emergency contraception. You’ll also need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

MYTH: Condoms are the only type of contraception I need to think about.
TRUTH: No they’re not. Condoms can provide protection from STIs and unintended pregnancy. But to ensure the best protection, it is recommended that you and your partner use a condom and another form of contraception. There are many different types of contraception that can be used, including the implant, injection, coil or the pill. It’s worth exploring all options.

MYTH: You need extra lube. Vaseline is good.
TRUTH: No it’s not. A bit of extra lubrication is good but don’t use anything with oil in it as it can dissolve the condom – that includes baby oil, Vaseline and hand cream. Lipstick has oil in it too. Use a water-based lubricant, such as KY jelly or Durex Play from a pharmacy.

MYTH: Condoms make him less sensitive.
TRUTH: Using a condom doesn’t have to spoil the moment. They can make some men last longer before they come, which is good news for both of you. There are many different sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours of condoms, so enjoy finding the one that suits you both best.

MYTH: Condoms cut off his circulation.
TRUTH: No they don’t. A condom can stretch to 18 inches round. He’ll be fine. There are many different shapes and sizes available to try.

MYTH: I’m on the pill, so we don’t need condoms.
TRUTH: Yes you do. The pill does not protect you or your partner from STIs. Also, if you’ve forgotten to take a pill, been sick or you’ve been using antibiotics, the effectiveness of the pill is reduced and you could still get pregnant.

MYTH: If I ask to use a condom, my partner will think less of me.
TRUTH: Insisting that you use a condom suggests that you know how to take care of yourself and shows that you know what you want, which can be very sexy.

MYTH: You don’t need a condom if you’re having oral sex.
TRUTH: Yes you do. You should use a condom for oral sex because gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes can be passed to each other this way.

MYTH: You have to be 18 to buy condoms.
TRUTH: No you don’t, you can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them free at any age, as well as confidential advice, from community contraception clinics (formerly family planning clinics), Brook centres, sexual health (GUM) clinics, Further Education colleges and young people’s clinics.

MYTH: I don’t need a condom – I only sleep with nice people.
TRUTH: STIs don’t know or care if you’re nice or not. The way someone looks is no indicator of whether they have an STI. Many STIs don’t show any symptoms, so you could infect each other without even knowing it.

MYTH: If it’s a condom, it’s safe.
TRUTH: Not necessarily – novelty condoms aren’t safe. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE or Kite mark, which is a recognised safety standard. Also check the date on the packet as condoms don’t last forever.

 





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