Teenagers Taking Care of Their Teeth: Do They Or Don’t They?

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  4. Teenagers Taking Care of Their Teeth: Do They Or Don’t They?
It’s always been said that you don’t get a manual when you become a parent. It’s a work in progress, a lifetime journey that has you forever flying by the seat of your pants. Ironic really, that what starts with the pants continues; only off the ground, heading to the unknown and at a seemingly relentless pace.

Those first five years of parenthood just get vacuumed up like a rusk from under the couch; then there’s a sort of breather for a few years because you didn’t drop them, sit on them or malnourish them because for six months all they’d eat was plain pasta or white rice and no amount of trickery could change that.

After everyone survives that, you’re simply gearing up for the onset of adolescence.

Interestingly, the World Health Organisation defines adolescence as a person between the ages of ten and 19. Maybe there’s some forgotten nuance between adolescence and teenage-hood, because the technical nature of the word itself means it can’t be anyone under the age of 13. If ten is the new 13, like 50 is the new 40 and brown is the new black, then please, just put me out of my misery now, in a humanely dental way anyway.

Such is the generally unpredictable nature of the teen and the worth they bring. You never know what you’re gonna get, and taking care of their teeth has to be included in that. Sure, they can be somewhat obsessive and routine at times so the brushing and flossing would get a good going then. But sometimes they just don’t do stuff for what looks like no reason at all, and that’s usually because we’ve forgotten the angst and the adventure of adolescence.

So the general answers as to whether teenagers are taking care of their teeth, are ‘sporadically’ and ‘attempting to’ and ‘whatever’. Some teens don’t emerge from their bedroom for months on end with a hazmat suit eventually required. For others, social media and the picture-perfect smiles they see, unbelieving of the thousands of dollars in dental work that has been spent, may decide that their perfectly perfect teeth aren’t perfect enough. They may insist that their life cannot go on without some costly and probably unnecessary work.

Such as it can be when teenagers are so influenced by their peers and so mesmerised by illusion. It’s all part of the trippy trip of wanting to get to adulthood because you think you can be a teenager all your life then.

Teenagers don’t generally look after anything very well. They lose interest. They get distracted. They thought they did and they didn’t. They’re teenagers. Busy working out the world and their place in it. Curious about philosophy, politics, and social issues. Wanting to be so independent of parental influence. (Or even hearing them even breath, sometimes.) Learning to think in the abstract, developing plans, the fits and starts of having dreams and going about their important business of setting their own world on fire.

Truly caring about good teenage dental health and the repercussions thereof is adult business. Take care of your teenager’s teeth for them. If you think they’re doing it themselves because they tell you they’re brushing and flossing for like, a million hours a day you’re consciously deluding yourself. Leaving it up to a 16-year-old to be responsible for their 6-monthly dentist appointment is waiting for them to remember to do that when their teeth ache. It can take years for dental neglect to really show itself. Save yourself from that by saving the handing over of ultimate responsibility for your kids’ teeth for their 20th birthday. It’ll give them a different view of the world as a warm-up for their 21st.

Teenagers. They didn’t even exist until the 1950s. Like t-shirts. Both undoubtedly worth a nod to James Dean; without whom we would never have recognised you can be a rebel without a cause, that it was really because of John Steinbeck that Dean died, and that timing is everything.

For those unfamiliar with the Hollywood legend, dead only five years from his own teenage years, the car in which James Dean died has become a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside in an enigma – as Winston Churchill famously described Russia. Ostensibly its current behaviour deems that observation still relevant and the outcome rather frightening.

As all conflict is. It’s friction hog-tied in chaos, inside change and evolution. Just ask a butterfly.

The head-on that catapulted James Dean into death and immortality happened at the intersection of State Highway 41 and US 466 – in his newly delivered silver 1955 Porsche Spyder with specialist mechanic Rolf Wutherich riding shotgun. Steinbeck is responsible for the racing passion – Dean’s rise to stardom and the money it brought began with his role in East of Eden It slammed into a 1950 Ford Tudor coupe driven by 23-year-old college student Donald Turnupseed. (“Turnupspeed” or is that just me?) The sheer velocity of the impact flipped the Porsche into the air where it landed in a gully, pinning Dean inside with a broken neck.

Turnupseed, who suffered only minor injuries with an inquest ruling “unavoidable accident” had ignored a stop sign before plowing into the Spyder; in his statement he just didn’t see it. Being 5.45pm, the road had a reflective effect from the sun; the low-profile Spyder a metallic silver look. In that instance of reverting to adolescent thinking of no consequences, a talented 24-year-old actor died, tragedy mated with the wont for reason, and a richly intriguing story was born.

The word “teenager” had only been around for 11 years before James Dean became its first anti-hero hero, rebellious and shameless enough to wear his white undershirts as outer clothing, setting the statement of the t-shirt into popular culture.

The first person to propose a coherent redefinition of puberty was American psychologist G. Stanley Hall in 1898: the life stage he called “adolescence” should cover the years between 15 and 24.

Neurologists and psychologists would agree with that. The brain is still developing and its plasticity is as equally vulnerable as it is robust.

Like a teenager.

The first definition of the teenager happened in 1944 as advertising, driven toward seventeen year olds – then the most visible consumers. That age range would be expanded after the Second World War baby boom. When usage of the term became commonplace during the mid 1950’s, it again complied with Hall’s original characterisation.

The invention of the teenager and indeed the consumerism of youth, offered a new ideal within a world war devastated planet. For more than seventy years this has been the way that the West sees the young, and it is successfully exported around the world, more expanded, more indulged and less accountable wherever it can be and mostly if you’re white. The idea of the teenager may be in need of some redefinition.

Undoubtedly the history of the coming of age in the twentieth century has three distinct time periods: one from 1880 until World War II; one from the 1940s to the ‘60s; and the third that had started by 1970 and is clearly still in evidence with adaptations more than five decades later.

Maybe the evolution and revolution of teenagerhood is the same. Maybe we’re in its second distinct time period now.
What have we ever really known about teenagers? The very act of being one insists on agitation in one form or another. And it should be that way. When your entire body is doing weird stuff, most certainly you and your brain will too. Moulding them slowly, with subtle reconfigurations of ideas, has parallels with the popular orthodontic walk of Invisalign and other clear aligners in their teenage years. Nurture them coolly while ignoring your own dental and psychological imperfections.

Western society encourages a culture of irresponsibility under the guise of pressure rewarded by leisure. It’s an idea vigorously promoted in social media, and brings with it an acceptance of youth culture glamorisation, and the pursuit of money without much meaning. It sometimes seems that the longer the concept of the teenager is around, the less accountability is held.

And yet surprising self-accountability emerges, like climate activism. A 1975 teenager, even if they were sneaking cigarettes and stealing cans of beer would still always give their bus seat up for someone older. That warped style of respect helped give later rise to Greta Thunberg. While her face often contorts in “how dare you” rage, her teeth are always immaculate.

Note: All content and media on the  Sunbury Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

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