How to Help Teens Follow Good Dental Habits

Image Courtesy SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

You can’t get them to clean their room. How do you make sure your teenager remembers to use their toothbrush?

Setting up good dental habits for a lifetime begins in childhood. But this regular task can take a hit during adolescence when rebellion against rules and authority suddenly becomes the norm. Teens question the ‘whys’ behind everything: “Why should I have to brush my teeth twice a day? And after meals, are you serious?”

Teenagers are often sensitive about grooming issues, and the simple question, “did you brush your teeth today?” can provoke a surly response.

Because battles over control are common, asking whether or not teeth are brushed or flossed can produce a kid who won’t brush for a week. And then grins at you with a crusty smile.

Like so many elements of parenting, during the teen years, it’s wise to change your approach. Teens won’t appreciate demands, but do respond to positive incentives.

Here are some ways to help your teen keep up great dental habits during adolescence:


  1. Move from authority to encourager. Instead of asking whether or not your teen is brushing, remark how nice their teeth look when you catch them with a toothbrush in hand.
  2. Bring home a whitening toothbrush with fluoride, just for them. Because teens want to be attractive, they will tend to brush more to get a whiter smile.
  3. Remark on their breath. Reward your teen with encouragement when you catch him or her freshly brushed. “Wow, your breath smells great! Are you doing something different?”
  4. Strike a deal for dental whitening. Teens today crave that white celebrity smile. They may have nagged you for ZOOM Whitening, or want dental trays. Allow your teen this treat, but remind them that that unless they brush twice a day, initial whitening effects will dim over time.
  5. Compliment your teen’s friends who have great smile. If your teen isn’t brushing regularly, this may make them think. . You can also remark on teen actors like Taylor Lautner who have gorgeous smiles.
  6. Share your own experience.  By middle age, a lack of regular dental care and brushing will create problems from shifting teeth to gum bleeding to bad breath. Use your own problems as a lesson and mention to your teen that you wish you’d had better habits at their age. . Explain your own fears about dentures and/or tooth loss.
  7. Help build responsibility by allowing teens to make their appointments for cleanings. Encourage them to set up a year’s worth of cleaning appointments and plug it in their phone calendars.
  8. Compliment your teen on good habits. It’s simple, but often overlooked. If your teen IS brushing regularly, mention that you’re proud of your teen’s follow through and discipline.
  9. Consider buying your teen an electric toothbrush such as Sonicare. They’re not only fun to use, but the built-in alarm will ensure a full two minutes brushing.
  10. If your teen needs Invisalign braces, strike another deal.


It’s a fact that teens may undergo a rebellious period of avoiding brushing, but most recover this habit eventually.  Take heart, being a teenager doesn’t last forever. It just feels like it.

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