Encouraging proper dental care and daily brushing can be a battle with young children. This struggle can sometimes get worse as your kids enter their tweens and teens.
It’s not uncommon for habits to slip as teens hit puberty. If you have a child who is susceptible to gum disease or cavities, this age period is often when major problems begin. Good dental health is particularly important to teens as older children who neglect their teeth can lead to a lifetime pattern of poor dental hygiene. Poor brushing habits can result in cavities, yellowing, gum disease and loss of teeth.
According to a recent Gallup Youth Survey, 34% of teens brush their teeth only once a day and 2% claim that they don’t even brush daily. The numbers are even more discouraging when it comes to daily flossing, which is necessary for maintaining healthy teeth and gums and preventing future problems such as gingivitis. However, few teens floss as often as they should, with the survey finding that only 13% floss daily and 44% rarely or never floss.
One of the problems is that many teenagers have yet to grasp that they have adult teeth, which are taller than the baby teeth they leave behind. Also, 12-year-old molars typically arrive between 10 and 16 years of age and many children are not aware that they need to reach further back to brush them. Additionally, motor skill development doesn’t make it reasonable to expect kids to adequately floss until they are at least 10 years old.
The following are some simple and easy tips to encourage teens to take proper care of their teeth:
- Don’t hover. Constantly monitoring teens may make them less likely to brush. Provide encouragement, but give them some space.
- Use positive forms of reinforcement and establish an appropriate reward system.
- Don’t threaten. Never use a visit to the dentist as a punishment, which can create an unfounded fear of the dentist and instill a dread of dental treatments.
- Practice what you preach. It’s important for parents to set a good example for teens and follow your own behaviors, including those related to dental care. Teenagers are more likely to develop good dental health habits if they see them displayed at home.
- Have teens keep a travel-size toothbrush in their locker or backpack, which makes it easy to keep up with good teeth-cleaning habits after meals and snacks.
- Explain the consequences, in detail. Describe the implications that can result from a failure to brush, including plaque buildup, tooth decay, gum surgery and root canals. Also focus on the more superficial elements of poor oral care, such as stained teeth, which should get a teen’s attention.
It’s important to make sure teens keep up with routine dental visits and exams, including cleanings, which should take place every six months. It can also be helpful to have a neutral outsider, such as a dentist or dental hygienist, talk to your teen about the importance of brushing and flossing.