If you are the parent of a teenager, the onus is no longer on you to brush your child’s teeth. But sometimes you might wish you could, because you can’t always count on your teen to do it.
Put a set of braces on those adolescent teeth and you have a whole new level of concern. Effective brushing and flossing is even more important. Plaque and food can build up around braces and, if it isn’t removed, permanent marks may appear on the surface of the teeth.
“Teens are in a situation where their diet is not well controlled. They are often exposed to high amounts of sugar or snack regularly throughout the day; both habits lead to a high risk of causing cavities,” says Guelph Village Dental’s Dr. Ketan Mistry. “Combine that with a lack of attention to effective hygiene habits and you have the potential for increased dental problems.”
Consult with your dentist
Unfortunately, teens might not recognize that poor dental habits today can cause more issues in future. “The important thing we try to stress to them is that once you start on a path to lots of cavities, you have fillings and your teeth are harder to take care of,” Dr. Mistry notes. Cavities and fillings can become larger over time and may eventually require more dental work, such as crowns and root canals.
The Guelph Village Dental team takes pictures of teen patients’ teeth to show them areas of plaque which they may be missing. They also use disclosing solutions (like those pink tablets that we loved as kids) to show areas of plaque they’ve missed during brushing. “It’s a bit of a scare tactic, but hopefully it leads to better dental hygiene,” Dr. Mistry says.
Help your teens with their oral hygiene
Dr. Mistry recommends that some teens use an electric toothbrush for more effective brushing. A motorized water flosser (such as Waterpik®) is a huge help to teens with braces. It creates a targeted stream of water that removes food particles, bacteria and plaque. It is not a replacement for flossing, but is a great aid. “Also, a fluoride rinse is often a good idea if you’re susceptible to cavities,” Dr. Mistry says. “It makes the teeth more resistant to decay.”
Even if you feel your words fall on deaf ears, regular reminders to brush twice a day and floss once each day can’t hurt. And maintain regular visits to your dentist. If your child has braces, Dr. Mistry recommends dental cleanings every three months rather than six. Your dentist or orthodontist can also provide tips on how to brush and floss around braces. “The last thing we want to see is nice straight teeth with lots of cavities in them,” Dr. Mistry notes.
Do as I do
Be a good role model for your teen when it comes to dental hygiene. If they see you brushing and flossing regularly, even after a long day, they may be more likely to follow suit. Stress the importance of proper dental care.