When Your Teen’s Oral Hygiene Habits Sink Really Low

Teenagers aren’t known for being tidy.

Some teens do take a huge interest in their personal appearance, however, although some don’t.

By the way, poor oral hygiene in teens and younger children is more than “just” bad breath: the Centers for Disease Control reports that cavities (more specifically known as dental caries) are the most common form of chronic disease in children ages 5 to 17.

The CDC adds that while younger children go to the dentist more regularly due to the fact that they are under their parents control than teens, teens have more control over their time and don’t spend it making sure they get their teeth checked by a dentist at least two times a year.

If your teen is one would read the above paragraphs and say “So?” read below for some tips on how to help him get back to regular brushing and flossing.

  • Let your teen know that not brushing/flossing and getting regular dental checkups can lead to bad breath and that studies have shown that the opposite sex doesn’t like to kiss people with bad breath. (If your teen refuses to listen to you, get his cute female cousin or his best friend to tell him this.)
  • Does your teen drink a lot of sugary soda? He many believe that “it could happen to him” (losing teeth), but letting him know that the average adult between the age of 20-64 has three or more decayed or missingteeth? If he thinks 64 is far off, remind him that the statistic mentions adults age 20, which – if he’s age 18 – is just two years away. That might make him pay attention. So may pictures of 25-year-olds who have lost teeth due to poor oral hygiene (and poor oral hygiene could also lead to losing something else of great importance to young men, according to the linked article….).

He has a lovely smile now, but if he doesn’t practice good oral hygiene as a teen, that great grin could show one or two missing teeth by the time he’s in his 20s.

We’re joking (somewhat) with the ideas above, but poor oral hygiene in young people really isn’t funny because poor oral hygiene can eventually lead to some serious diseases – such as heart disease – when an individual reaches middle age or older, assuming the poor oral hygiene continues.

So how can you help your teen see sense and take care of his or her teeth?

  1. If your child refuses to listen to you (teens have a habit of not listening to parents), on the sly, ask your dentist or dental hygienist to talk to your teen about how important good daily oral habits are. An objective third-party – particularly one who is an expert on the subject – may be able to help your child see the wisdom in brushing/flossing/regular checkups.
  2. Use positive reinforcement rather than negative. You don’t need to – and shouldn’t – bribe your teen, but you could set up some form of reward system.
  3. Never threaten and don’t use a visit to the dentist as punishment.
  4. Don’t continually monitor your teen’s oral hygiene habits or constantly ask about them. This could result in having your teen want to brush/floss even less.

If you’d like to try tip #1 above with your recalcitrant teen, we’re happy to talk to him or her about the importance of good oral hygiene. Contact Plano dentist Dr. Darren Dickson by phone to schedule an appointment. You also may send us an e-mail message at [email protected].

Image courtesy of ambro/

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