Monday, December 9, 2013

Ways to Keep Teens and Young Adults on Track with Their Dental Care

For parents, instilling the importance of routine dental care in their children is an ongoing process. As kids grow up and become more independent and responsible, it's easy to assume that they're taking care of brushing regularly, flossing, and eating healthy snacks. Or is it?

Anyone living with teens and young adults knows that with their erratic schedules and sleep patterns that monitoring their activities, including dental hygiene, is far easier said than done. Some may even compare keeping tabs on these age groups similar to herding cats!

As a parent, maintaining the foundation for dental hygiene that you've built through childhood is difficult during this murky period. Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Melcher that should help:
  • Appeal to your young person's vanity and remind them that having fresh breath and a white smile will make them more attractive to peers and others.
  • Create two dental "tool-kits," one for home and one for their car or sports bag. Fill it with everything they could possibly need such as: a toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, dental rinse, tongue scraper, and lip balm. Encourage them to use all of the products and let you know when items need replenishing.
  • Let them say "Yum" to gum. In recent years, the ADA has supported the use of sugarless chewing gum as an effective tool in the fight against tooth decay. According to the ADA, chewing gum after a meal increases the flow of saliva in the mouth, which in turn, "actually helps to neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth." However, not all chewing gum acts in this way-offer your young adults only sugarless brands that bear the ADA seal of approval AND discuss the proper disposal methods for chewing gum!
  • Since nagging is usually ineffective, set your child up for success by having healthy snacks at home and plenty of water to drink. Make these items "grab & go" friendly and designate a specific pantry spot and another area in the fridge for cut-up fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, whole grain pretzels, crackers, packages of nuts and dried fruit. Also, purchase a few BPA-free water bottles and have them filled, chilled and ready to grab.
  • In the ongoing quest to make brushing fun, discuss how brushing to some favorite music will ensure that proper brushing time is achieved. If music is not easily accessible, outfit the bathroom space with a small radio or mp3 player as an added incentive. A small, 3-minute hourglass style egg timer is another way to increase brushing time.
  • For those young people who play contact sports, wearing a mouth guard and having a spare in their gym bag is non-negotiable!
  • To encourage young people to be in charge of their dental health, make sure their dentist's office has their e-mail address and cell phone number as well as yours. That way, they will receive appointment reminders and any other helpful communications sent from their dentist's office.
  • It's never too late to remind older kids about the importance of regular brushing and flossing along with the correct "how-to's," such as brushing gently in circles in the direction the teeth grow and flossing between every single tooth. Improper brushing can result in receding gums and gum disease.
Of course, scheduling regular checkups and cleanings are part of a successful dental health routine. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. Our team of dental professionals will also be happy to discus and demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques with your young adult or teenager. Just give us a call at: (919) 782-0548

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