Moms, Teenagers and Tooth BrushingPosted Mar 31, 2016 Posted in Dental Health, Mommy Dental Blog
As my kids have grown into these aspiring young teenagers, I can no longer brush their teeth for them and I have painfully discovered that hounding and nagging simply does not work. I cannot reward, push or punish them into becoming (the very beautiful) intrinsically motivated.
Like many of you, I have gotten the same report back from the incredible Sensational Smiles hygienists that my teen has very heavy plaque build-up, needs to brush better, needs to start flossing, yada yada. It would seem to the said teenagers that their ivories are going to stay clean all on their own. They clean their teeth like they clean their rooms! I feel as if my power of persuasion with my own kids has waned.
It is with this in mind, that I started talking to our team of hygienists about this common denominator that parents of teens have. My hope?…to divvy up some solutions and perhaps find that magic button to turn on in my teens and yours!
Our hygiene team first of all, agrees that it is a problem and the stats for poor or at best fair oral health among our teenage patient population are distressing. The consensus is that working together with parents and having blunt, open and honest conversations is the best way that we have found to address the issues.
Insights From Our Dental Hygienists
Hygienist Katie: I would say majority of teens I see have fair-poor home care. I remind them that the adult teeth they have now are the last set they will ever get – when they leave plaque and bacteria on teeth it makes the tooth weak and when a cavity starts it’s a hole in the tooth, which is decay. I encourage them to sit down when brushing because it helps not feeling so rushed. I show them flossing in mirror and the majority of them are surprised how “quick” it actually is to floss. Typically, they are just missing areas they aren’t even aware of – so i make them look in the mirror and see the gingivitis and redness or have them watch the entire time I clean to show all the bleeding and how “gross” it is.
Hygienist Val: I am frustrated as I have a teen myself. I feel it is always a battle. I have educated and explained that he only gets one chance and how he will be sorry later in life. We discuss bad breath and especially when he has a girlfriend. I have even dragged him out of bed after noticing his toothbrush wasn’t wet! I do get better results when I am not nagging and give what’s in it for him. As a hygienist, I definitely recommend a Sonicare toothbrush. I give recommendations to brush their teeth while watching TV or brush well before bedtime, even if it’s right after school (at least it’s something). I encounter both boys and girls and it always boils down to…they would rather do something “fun for them” instead of having responsibility. They state that they have “too many other things to do” and they “always forget”. I have always thought that an app would be nice that would show them a picture of what they would look like without teeth!
My Teenage’s Dental Health
As a mom, I have to remember that my teenagers poor oral habits are not a reflection on me. I have done everything within my power to instill the value from the time they were wee ones. It is now time for them to take the ownership of their own oral health and their now adult teeth. Making my kids feel loved and important and building self-motivation is utmost of value to me. To do that, I must refrain from taking ownership. Instead, I try to cultivate a circumstance that stimulates that self-interest and then I repeatedly do that. For example, I put flossers in their cars, beside their video games, by their beds and yes, even in the shower. This replaces nagging and even can open up dialogue. Their young minds remember things selectively so this encourages that building of memory.
In addition, I work on my own verbal skills with them: challenging them to come up with their own ideas on how to be better at brushing/flossing. Rather than saying: “You should.” I say, “You might want to think about…” or instead of saying “This is the way to do it.”, I say “Consider this.”
Use Technology to Motive Dental Health
Your teen may be motivated some dental technology. Here is an article that I ran across that offers technology suggestions that may just trigger that magic button of dental heatlh motivation: Motivating Teens to Better Oral Care Through the Use of Dental Technology
“Walk the Talk” When it Comes to Brushing and Flossing
Remember that their motivation is fluid and can change like the waves, so be creative. Someone once told me that children have never been good at listening to adults, but they have never failed to imitate them. Lead by example and walk the talk…brush and floss in front of them. Little by little and even with some exasperating moments, I ultimately believe in them and that they will take ownership of this very important hole in their head!