We spend a lot of time talking about how to instill good oral hygiene habits in our kids. However, as much as you want to keep them small and sweet forever, they will one day grow into teenagers, and they may have some challenging attitudes when it comes to hygiene and self-care.
While their wit and humor really shine through in these years, so does their defiance and need to set their own course. Just think back to your own teenage years. Teenagers all have one thing in common—they don’t want to be babied anymore. Therefore, dental care for adolescents has to be specifically tailored to their attitude and unique oral hygiene needs.
Full body hygiene changes drastically in the tween and teenage years, and so should your approach to emphasizing overall cleanliness. While we wish there was one single answer on how to deal with teens, we can still provide some “best practices” for getting your teen engaged with a good oral health routine.
Let them use their phone
Getting your child off their iPhone or iPad at the end of the night can be a challenge. Before you take it away every time, consider letting them use it while they brush and floss their teeth. For example, there are several apps like TeensHealth that include timers to help them brush their teeth for the recommended amount of time. You can even let them listen to music or a podcast while they brush. As long as they aren’t completely zoned out while brushing, teens are used to multitasking with their phone and can even make use of a soundtrack or the like while they floss.
Promote healthy eating
Teens hitting puberty can render them bottomless pits of hunger. Especially if your teen is going out for sports, it can seem like they are constantly eating you out of house and home.
While simple carbs, sugary drinks, or candy may be your teen’s go-to, it is important to limit these treats to protect those teeth. Sugar left on the teeth can easily cause cavities or promote gum disease. If your teen is eating these foods on-the-go all the time, encourage them to bring a bottle of water with them and at least wash their mouth out after. While not the perfect solution, it will help dislodge food earlier and help prevent against oral health issues.
Work with what you have
The early teenage years are when many kids begin to take note of how they look, and want to proactively do more to groom and improve their appearance. Use this to your advantage. Emphasize the importance of fresh breath when meeting someone new or spending time with people you care about. Encourage the use of sugar-free gum that makes your mouth minty fresh and that also protects against cavities and gum diseases.
Lend a helping hand
While we wish our teens were responsible enough to make their own appointments and keep up their own calendars outside of the next trip to the mall, it is not always the case. Help them remember to schedule their biannual appointment and either drive them or remind them to attend. It’s important to not let them slack off those needed cleanings even though their schedules can be packed with homework and sports practices.
In addition, although they are no longer little kids, they are still watching their parents and taking cues from them. Lead by example in everything—even in oral hygiene. If your teen sees that this is important to you, they too might take it a little more seriously.
Parenting teens isn’t easy. We understand that and hope to make encouraging good oral health habits a little easier on everyone! Call our office today if you have any questions or concerns about your teens’ teeth!
Also published on Medium.