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Note from Smiles Dental: This post is written by guest blogger and Smiles Dental mom, Monique Tindall. She hopes that by sharing her personal dental stories, other parents understand the importance of dental health for their kids. Her articles take a look at the humorous side of teeth brushing and dentist visits. Thanks for reading!
As a mom you have to know when to cut those apron strings and let your kids start taking care of themselves. I was shocked earlier this year when I found out my son only brushes his teeth a couple times per week – YUCK! I think back when he was young and we brushed his teeth every morning and evening. As he got older (7 or 8) we would just remind him to brush his teeth when he went to bed or before he went to school. We would check in a few times per week to do some quality control. At some point we assumed we had taught him proper hygiene and that he was doing it. Then I asked the question a few months ago “Did you brush your teeth?” Answer – “no.” After further conversation I was mortified to find out that somewhere along the line my son decided that brushing his teeth wasn’t a top priority twice per day.

As a mom who works with dentists I was sure my son knew the importance of brushing his teeth. We had talked about cavities, bad breath, gum disease – all the good stuff. I tried incentives (if I asked and he did it he got $5); I tried punishments (no computer or if I asked and he didn’t do it he owed me $5). I finally turned to the internet for some information. He is, after all, a teenage boy – he tends to have the memory of a goldfish at times and common phrases in our house include “I forgot” or ‘I can’t find it.’

I came to learn I am not alone in having a teenage boy who doesn’t brush his teeth. Stories and blogs of other mom’s who are concerned and embarrassed by their child’s lack of oral hygiene were easy to find. Advice came from moms telling me to show pictures of tooth decay and the consequences of bad oral hygiene, or telling your kid he will be known as the “bad breath boy.” These sound good but will they really get to the heart of the matter? I found out it doesn’t stop with teeth for some moms – showers, changing clothes…a plethora of cleanliness issues surround pubescent boys. Boys especially stink with all their changing hormones and sweaty socks. UGH! Well, at least my son likes to bathe!

WebMD has a great article covering all of the main points of hygiene for teen boys and girls; it is on my son’s reading list for this evening. It covers everything from bathing, oral hygiene and even deodorant. Here are a few great tips from the article:

Make good hygiene a responsibility. If your teen is resistant to basic teen hygiene – like showering after practice or using deodorant – don’t just nag or plead. Explain that taking care of himself is a responsibility, and start treating it like his other household duties. Just as he is supposed to take out the trash and keep his room clean, he now has to look after his hygiene. If he doesn’t, there should be clear repercussions, like revoked privileges.

Start early. Tanya Remer Altmann, MD,a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls and The Wonder Years recommends that most parents start talking about teen hygiene issues – and giving over some responsibility for them – by age 10.

Don’t come down too hard. Don’t start by hassling your kids about their hygiene. Try to avoid confrontations. Once it becomes a struggle, your kids might be more likely to dig in their heels.

Make sure your information is up to date. Before you talk to your kids about teen hygiene, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Some of the advice you got when you were younger could be outdated now – or may never have been true in the first place.

Be a good role model. If you want your kid to have good hygiene habits, you need to stick to them yourself. Don’t shuffle around the house in pajamas all weekend. And good luck trying to get your kid to use floss if he’s never seen you with it.

So the struggle to not over-mother yet equip our son to be a healthy and sweet smelling adult continues. At his last visit to the dentist he has a small cavity – nothing serious. He just has deep crevices like his mom. Perseverance and consistency I think is the key here and maybe some loss of gaming time on the computer! I am also getting him an electric OralB toothbrush for Christmas. It has two benefits: 1) it has a timer so he will know for sure how long he brushed and 2) I might be able to hear him brushing so I will know he is doing his job.

Smiles!