Each stage of your child’s life comes with different challenges for oral health. From teaching them to brush to watching them learn to floss, your child learns new practices and responsibilities as they grow each year. When it comes to teenage oral care, parents should know a few key items to ensure their child is progressing properly in their oral hygiene routine. Let’s explore some of these points to monitor when discussing oral care of older kids.
Teenage oral care skills your child needs
Teens should be trusted to handle a few oral hygiene practices without any help. These include rinsing and spitting without swallowing toothpaste, brushing their teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and generally being aware of the importance of dental health.
Remember, as a parent, it is your job to teach your child these habits and to monitor their performance. Children should not be left unsupervised to brush unless they can confidently spit out toothpaste once they are done. Swallowing fluoride toothpaste can lead to an upset stomach and the practice of rinsing and spitting should be easily grasped for an older child.
When discussing flossing with your child, it is important to teach them why it is necessary, how it reaches the spaces that the brush cannot, and why it should be done at least once a day.
All adults know that flossing can be a challenging routine to incorporate into daily life. Since it is a bit more time consuming and dexterous, some kids (and adults) may look to skip this step in their daily oral hygiene routine. Every pediatric dentist will tell you that habits need to be built from the ground up and that parents should ensure that their child does not skip flossing as it can lead to issues down the road.
Make sure your child knows that any bleeding from flossing is temporary and will pass in time once the gums fully heal and habituate to the routine.
What about mouthwash?
Since many mouthwashes contain alcohol, these should be kept out of reach of children at all times. Even though most mouthwashes come with child-proof caps, it is best to keep them up high and away from curious hands. Kids under the age of 6 never need mouthwash, mostly because they usually cannot properly rinse and spit.
Over the age of 6, mouthwash can be used as long as parents are around to supervise. Mouthwash is not a necessity for older kids, however. In fact, if your child is brushing twice a day and flossing, they likely don’t need mouthwash as part of their routine.
Dealing with cavities
Older kids may develop cavities at some point in their development. Remember, this is not the end of the world and it should not be considered a failure. It is important not to shame your child if they have a cavity, and always use encouraging language about their dental habits so that they persist and develop a good daily regimen.
If your child does have multiple cavities, speak to your pediatric dentist about their oral care habits and their diet. There may be space for improvement or prevention.
Motivating your teen
Once kids get older and start to learn some independence, they may decide that habits such as flossing or brushing twice a day are too demanding for them and they want to skip them. As all parents know, kids can be stubborn.
What is the best approach to take? It bears repeating that the best way to instill good oral hygiene habits in your child is to make sure to start them early. If you help your child brush and floss daily from an early age, they will likely come to see these practices as a part of their daily life and not a chore.
Remember, parents set the example. Make sure you are consistent with these habits and don’t let your child take a day off. If your child starts to see brushing or flossing as optional because their mom or dad are not insisting that they do it, then this can harm the development of their long-term dental habits.
For stubborn kids, try to make brushing and flossing fun. Get a toothbrush timer, a colorful toothbrush, flavored toothpaste, or rewards for your child’s good habits.
At the pediatric dentist, make sure to grab a gift if they are offered in order to associate positive feelings with good dental health. At home, reward your child for good checkups and also when you see them brushing or flossing on a consistent basis. Rewards don’t always have to be toys or treats. Try positive words and affirmation for your child to make them feel good about their habits and their clean teeth.
Issues to look out for in teenage oral care
Older kids are susceptible to a few dental issues that parents should watch out for. If your child’s top teeth are overlapping their bottom teeth, they may have an overbite. This means your child is a candidate for braces in order to correct this problem. Talk to your pediatric dentist and get an examination to determine if braces are right for your child. They may need to be referred to an orthodontist.
Another issue to watch out for is if your child has frequent cavities. Recurring cavities may mean your child has dietary issues or poor dental hygiene habits.
For diet, try to avoid giving your child sugary drinks, especially before bedtime. Try to monitor their snacking as well, and the types of food they are eating.
Make sure your child is visiting the pediatric dentist at least twice a year, and make sure they are using a fluoride toothpaste because it is proven to be effective as a preventative measure against tooth decay.
If your child is experiencing any of the above issues, or if they have pain when they bite down or if they have a toothache, make sure to make a prompt appointment with a pediatric dentist to have them evaluated.