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National Children’s Dental Health Month: Teens and Teeth

If you’re like most parents, you probably struggle to get your teen to talk to you about pretty much anything, let alone oral health. But oral hygiene habits begin at home, and even though your teen thinks he or she is an adult, it’s still up to you to make sure your teen is doing his or her best to maintain oral health. In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, here are some tips about helping your older children take proper care of their oral hygiene - even when you don’t care for their tone.


Tech It Up

Today's teenagers are all about technology. From the latest devices to the trendiest apps, teens want to stay connected to their friends and the outside world all the time. So, how can you use this to your advantage? Try using technology to help your teens take better care of their teeth. A high-tech sonic toothbrush not only looks cool, but also cleans faster and more effectively than both manual and traditional electric spin brushes. Some models even come with an auto-time function that shuts off on its own after two minutes of brushing, so you never need to worry if your teen has been brushing long enough. 

Want to take it a step further? Download a tracking app that helps remind your teen to brush, times his brushing, and can even chart his progress over time.

Pay Attention to Preferences

Does your daughter like spearmint toothpaste and your son like cinnamon? Does your son love plain dental floss and your daughter prefer flavored? If your kids like different products or flavors, remember to choose your battles. Your teens will be more likely to use the oral health products you buy for them if they like the way they taste, so consider buying two separate kinds of toothpaste or floss if that’s what it takes to get them to use it!

Stock Your Shelves

Worried about the kinds of foods your teen is eating, and the effects those foods will have on his teeth? Believe it or not, you still have a major influence in what your teen eats - after all, you stock the pantry. Limit the amount of sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and juices you bring into the home. Keep nutritious, tooth-healthy snacks on hand, like fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, and cheese. If you buy gum, make sure you are only buying sugarless gum.

Reward Good Behavior

The same way many orthodontists offer rewards programs for kids for taking care of their braces, you can offer rewards to your kids for completion of a successful dental exam. No cavities? Let your teen stay up an extra hour or two this weekend or download a few new songs. Has your teen’s oral health improved since their last appointment? Let her choose dinner that night.  

Rewards don’t have to be expensive. Even small gestures go a long way and encourage your teen to keep up the good work.

Do It Yourself

Don’t rely on your teens to make their own medical appointments - no matter how independent they think they are. If your teen is driving, has an after-school job or has extracurricular activities, make sure you speak to her about her schedule before booking medical appointments so there are no scheduling conflicts. 

Your teen will feel respected and be more willing to go if her appointment doesn’t conflict with something she had to give up going to the dentist. 

Once you make your teen's appointment, make sure she knows when and where it is, and make sure you remind her or set a calendar invite. If she needs to arrive early, let her know that, too. If you are going with your teen, discuss where she’d like you to be during the appointment (in the exam room, in the waiting room, in China). If your teen is going alone, check in with her and verify that she made it on time and that the dentist doesn’t need to speak with you.

Watch Yourself

It may be hard to believe sometimes, but your children want to emulate you. If they see you eating healthy foods and taking great care of your teeth, they will learn to model those behaviors for themselves. If you have always lived a healthy, balanced life, you can feel good that your teen at least sees that you "practice what you preach" in terms of being healthy. He or she may not be ready to follow suit right now, but keep taking care of yourself, and eventually your teen will want to, too.

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