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15 year old boy-tooth brushing
kabo1 posted:
I could really use some advice!! My 15 year old son just does not brush his teeth. This has been a battle his whole life. He has some aversion to brushing. Until a year ago I would occasionally watch him brush and constantly bug him. I decided to lay off and not make it a battle, but he does not care for his mouth. His gums are swollen and teeth yukky. Our dentist has tried to explain the importance of caring for his teeth to no avail. We take him in every three months for a cleaning just to try and prevent a serious gum problem. My son will not discuss this issue. I've tried to approach it as a caring, interested mom who just wants to help. Nothing.

Unfortunately this same son also tends to be a loner. He has few friendships and spends most of his time alone or with his dad or me. I often wonder if there is some connection between the hygiene issue and the social one.

Any suggestions? Thank you - I'm so worried about him.
momuv4girls responded:

My best guess would be a sensory problem. Sensory issues are a big deal to certain children. Some kids are sensitive to noises, food, touch etc...etc.....

Here is a really helpful link that explains it further:

A 'typical' teen is interested in looking their best, hanging out with friends and belonging to their peer group.

Have you sought out a child/adolescent psychologist to explore your son's behavior? I think that would be really helpful. You should find a Dr. that works only with children/adolescents. You can ask a pediatrician for a referral, or ask some friends.

Teenage years can be very difficult, and when you have a child that is a bit different, it can be even harder. The child knows they are different and therefore will isolate themselves even further. That is not a good thing. I would definitely believe there is some correlation between his hygiene issues and social issues, that is why I suggest finding a really good psychologist to work with him.

I hope this helps you some, take care, and write back anytime if you need any further resources and/or support !!

rednewbie responded:
Ok.. Mom.. time to let Jr. know you are the Mommy and he is the child. And if he wants to act like a 5 year old fussy about brushing his teeth then he needs to be treated as so, until he decides he is about to take (basic) care if himself.

And reading the postings, it time to take stuff away until he begins to act mature. I personally would make his bedtime earlier, no computer or games. Brushing his teeth is not a option, he can get diseases and ruin his teeth. I would also take all pop and sugar drinks (Kool Aid) as if he is not going to brush his teeth you can limit the sugar. I would cut it cold, but you need to make sure you are going to stay consistant. No giving in..

A couple things to consider. If he does not brush his teeth, he must have bad breath. Point it out.. Turn off the TV until he brushes.

And let him know, he will not be able to get job or a girlfriend if his bad breathe is really bad.

Good Luck.. I have a 15 yr old girl who decided "brushing her teeth is a waste of time"... I had to restrict her activities. But she turned around quick when I told her if she wants to act like a 10 yr old, I will treat her as so.. and sent her to bed early and took her off the TV. Sometimes these silly kids just want to test you and see if you are paying attention and how much they can get away with. Stomp this out quick.. If you can't get him to brush his teeth, you are about to be in a world of trouble as he gets older. Its disrespectful for him to "disobey" you when you ask him to brush his teeth.

Good Luck.. Gin
kabo1 responded:
Thank you for the thoughts. I am torn between whether to approach this as a psychological issue or a behavioral one. At one point I discussed it with his pediatrician who brushed it off as typical teen boy rebelliousness. I was furious at how he dismissed my concerns.

I have already quit buying sodas and candy, which he loves, but so far no reaction. I think you are right - next goes video games and late bedtime. Although, I also worry about depression and really low self esteem. When I approach the subject with my son he snaps at me "I got it - ok, I got it." He will not discuss it at all. We have tried all the various toothbrushes, pastes, wipes, rinses. . . .. aghhhh.

Parenting sure presents some crazy situations - doesn't it? Who would guess that toothbrushing would be such an issue? I certainly didn't.
rednewbie responded:
One thing to consider,.... his bad breathe and poor dental hygiene will also let him to have self esteem issues. My son before his braces always has his lips closed over his over bite for pictures. Did not even realize he was hiding his over bit until we got his school pictures. I did not know he was self conscious.

As I have a 19 and a 15 year old.. I can tell you "I got it, Ok I got it" from a teen is complete disregard. One point is, simple 5 year olds know they need to brush their teeth. A 15 year old, it should be a no brainer. Its all about control. And instead of being in the struggle, you need to simply say.

"Ok, we tried the easy route, and you decided you need more guidance in taking care of yourself and a reward system"... Do not waver... Do not negotate.. Do not give in... If he has a TV in his bedroom or computer.. Take it.. Until he is able to remember his teeth, less distractions is best.

I know it sounds mean.. But please trust me... He is testing you.. How far can he go until you break?

Like I said... I have had similar issues... And once my daughter new I was serious things got better. But for a few days she was very unhappy teenager.. Who decided a job that takes less than 5 minutes a day is silly to be fighting over.

Good Luck.. I am sorry if I offended anyone.

kabo1 responded:
I have to tell you - this site is so wonderful! Reading your suggestions really helps me see this problem in a new light. I think I get stuck in my way of dealing with it and get nowhere. He doesn't have a TV or comp. in his room, but he loves video games. SO, my plan is to take the game controller today. We have no more treats in the house, which he also loves. Wish me luck!
Johnnie38 responded:
I agree with the first response you received. This doesn't sound like oppositional behavior at all. Nothing you've offered lends itself to that. It sounds so much like a sensory one. He may either not like the way brushing his teeth feels or not like the taste of toothpaste or not be very good at brushing. What have you tried exactly? How many pastes have you tried? Liquid gels? Baking soda from the kitchen cabinet? Natural paste from the natural food store? Sensitive teeth formula? Firm bristle? Soft? Medium? Water Pic? Electric toothbrush? Have you brushed his teeth? Have you brushed yours standing next to him while he brushes his to model how it is done? For one of my kids, fine motor skills in general was very slow coming. Tooth brushing was one of the most difficult tasks/skills to teach. Perhaps this is true for your son. As far as the gums, a dentist can do a little laser work on the gums that can help. Also, seeing a periodontist would probably be a good thing. Professional cleaning 3-4x a year is a must while your son is still mastering this.

Please be gentle with your son. This just doesn't sound like a time to be laying down whatever law someone thinks you should be laying down. He needs your help.
Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
I was wondering the same thing Johnnie. I am pretty picky about toothbrushes because the feel of many of them bugs me. I can't really explain it.
kabo1 responded:
Yes, he has always had an issue with brushing. For many years I worked with him on it. We tried all sorts of brushes, wipes, water piks, we had quite a collection of toothbrushing supplies. When he turned 14 he got really angry at me monitoring the brushing so I backed off. Slowly but surely his teeth got worse and worse. My concern now is that he just won't talk about it and he won't brush. So, I'm not sure whether to continue to let it go and hope he becomes motivated. Its a tough call because teens need to establish their independence and make decisions, but I'm worried about his health and condition of his mouth. He also has well controlled asthma. Don't know if that could be a factor. His dentist thinks not.

I think this probably began as a sensory issue but now is a behavioral/power struggle. No matter what new brushes or paste I buy now he will not use it.

Maybe it is time to consult with another dr. A periodontist is a good idea.

Thanks for all the thoughts!
Johnnie38 responded:
Just an FYI, even if a sensory issue morphs into something else, the underlying sensory issue is the primary medical issue. A referral for OT by your pediatrician could be of benefit. And yes, it could be behavioral, but brushing his teeth may feel like nails on a chalkboard. I'd be oppositional and a power struggle would ensue if I were your son and if a sensory processing disorder were the root of the issue. That he has become angry and oppositional may indicate his own awareness and embarrassment that this problem has continued and escalated to the degree that it has. I can't help but think he must just feel awful at times.
SabrinaMom responded:
At this point, I would probably be approaching this problem from ALL angles. He's had this problem all his life, so it may be a sensory problem. You can keep dealing with it from that perspective, but it sounds to me like there is something else going on, too. He's having teeth and gum problems already, so he HAS to brush his teeth. This has moved into a potentially serious health issue because other illnesses and diseases can stem from periodontal disease. He could end up losing his teeth. I would put restrictions into place as others suggested. He can earn back those privileges by brushing his teeth. I would also have him evaluated by a psychologist. There might be some connection between the hygiene issue and the social issue, and a psychologist might be able to help him see that and figure out why hygiene is not important to him. Have you talked to school officials to see if there are other problems going on at school? Is he depressed and just doesn't care about his appearance? If nothing else, a psychologist might be able to give you some advice on how to approach this problem and deal with it. I hope you get it figured out.
rednewbie responded:
Honey.. Its obvious its a power struggle.. Time to take it out of his control. Seriously.. take the games and phone away until he brushes without issues for a week. Who cares if he will get angry. Please do not let the kid bully you into giving up.. You got 3 more years to teach this child about living like a grown up.. and brushing his teeth is not optional.

May I ask if you are a single parent? you have not mentioned a "father"... I know its hard... But you have to remain consistent. Gin
kabo1 responded:
I really enjoy reading all the various approaches to my issue. Parenting is definitely not easy - other parents giving support and information makes a huge difference. Thanks.

Had a talk yesterday with my son about this issue. Basically I told him I expect this problem to be solved this summer and that I would help him in any way I could, but it would be his responsibility to show me he was grown up enough to participate in the solution. From all of your ideas I presented to him that depending on what the issue really is there was someone who could help us - whether its an OT, a psychologist, a dental professional. For now I left it at that and asked him to think about what was behind the brushing refusal. He listened longer than usual but gave no response other than "OK." I told him if the brushing was something he felt he could handle on his own, fine, I'll check back in a week. If he still is not brushing we'll seek help.

I am not a single parent - not sure that matters - but my husband does not get involved in this stuff - don't even go there!!
rj0824 responded:
let him come home to a mattress on the floor and see how quickly he changes his tune about brushing....give back items as the amount of swelling in his gums decreases
horseshoes responded:
hate brushing too. it BURNS!!! i often find myself crying after. does your son do that too. i find it helpful to eat something really sweet after to wash that nasty taste out of my mouth, all toothpaste feels like your putting acid in your mouth, it doesnt matter what kind it is. i really dont like brushing so i only do it on special occasions. why dont you just make him chew super minty gum or eat as little as possible. i dont get the point of brushing, your going to lose your teeth when you get old anyways, why wait. my mom thinks im crazy for saying that but she has too much on her hands to deal with my hygene.( she puts me through guilt trips " oh im so scared that the government will put you in a home when you grow up") why dont you try putting him through a guilt trip if you really want him to brush. the old fashoned "i dont want to talk to you if you dont brush" or "your poor old mommy(who, by the way, looks like a teenager). if you dont want to guilt trip him just show him some nasty pictures of gum disease like they do in those anti tobacco ads. as for friendship, im the same, friendship may not be very interesting to him, if he has a few friendships he is probably not purposely(did i spell that right?) isolating himself, these are probably the only suitable people for friendship. anyways, hope i helped a little.( i gave away my dirty little secret in this post, teehee )

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