Every parent of teenagers knows that absent mindedness and a carefree attitude are standard operating procedure (interspersed with moments of baffling emotion and unexplained defiance, of course.) But, a wise and loving parent will negotiate that minefield with a goal of keeping their son or daughter safe, healthy, and as happy as teenagers can be.
Oral health is a big part of that. And, interestingly, it’s especially important for teens to maintain excellent oral health because it counteracts common less-than-healthy eating and drinking habits and sets the stage for positive habits as they head into adulthood.
Resisting candy and pop
As teens gain more independence and begin to thrive in their expanding social circles, eating out and munching on the go becomes a more common part of the weekly routine.
While many teenagers today are more health-conscious than earlier generations, there’s no denying the fact that a lot of those meals out will include sugary drinks and desserts. Combined with busier schedules and later curfews, this can become a recipe for oral health disaster if they’re not careful.
As a parent, you can manage this with a two-pronged approach:
Make sure your teenage kids understand which foods are best for their oral health and which they need to be careful with
Encourage them to add self-care tasks like brushing their teeth into whatever app they’re currently using to keep track of their schedules and responsibilities
Establishing good habits
For those who take advantage of them, the teenage years are an opportunity for kids to practice taking on adult responsibilities in a controlled environment. From learning how to read the boss’s mood to navigating a tricky traffic situation on the road, the more your teen is exposed to important life skills and choices, the more opportunities you have to guide them down the best path.
This applies to good oral health habits as much as anything else. While it’s one thing to order your toddler to brush their teeth, it’s another thing entirely to help your adolescent develop smart and effective long-term oral health habits. Part of this is ensuring that they understand why these healthy oral habits are important. When you do, they’ll be more likely to establish good habits now that last into adulthood, when you won’t be there to remind them any longer.
Some ways to accomplish this lofty goal include:
Some evening over science homework, make sure your younger teens understand why brushing and flossing are important.
Include teens in any conversation with the dentist, instead of letting them stare at their phone while the dentist talks to you.
Encourage older teens to start scheduling their own semi-annual dental cleanings and check-ups and visiting the dentist on their own if possible.
Teen oral health is certainly important, both now and for the rest of their lives. Take advantage of this opportunity to teach them to embrace the responsibility for keeping themselves safe and healthy. They’ll (probably) thank you later.