While it probably wasn’t difficult to get you two-year-old, ten-year-old, or even your sixteen-year-old to brush his teeth, your college student may be a bit of a different story. At the other ages, it’s pretty easy. He either brushes, or he faces the predetermined consequences. Away at college, though, you aren’t there to make sure it happens. So how do you get your college kids to brush and floss? Here are a few suggestions that should help:

1. Explain the Consequences

Okay, so you may not really be able to enforce the same consequences that you would if your college student were still at home, but it is important that your student understand the health risks associated with poor dental hygiene.

College presents a unique situation for students that leave them particularly susceptible to major issues when it comes to their oral health. The major problem is that with the stress and new habits that are common in college – not sleeping enough, not taking care of oneself, not eating right – the immune system is compromised. That paired with a lack of dental hygiene allows bacteria in the mouth to grow, spread, and take hold, often resulting in an extremely painful condition known as Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis or (NUG).

This condition causing burning of the gums, difficulty swallowing, and more. The discomfort associated with the condition can even make it difficult to focus, attend class, and maintain an otherwise normal college lifestyle. If your son or daughter gets gum disease, they’ll likely need periodontal care.

Here’s a quick video on the subject by Dr. Jeanne Salcetti at Mountain Top Periodontics & Implants:

2. Emphasize Healthy Habits

Your college student is likely adopting several new habits now that he is on his own, so it’s important that even beyond explaining the consequences that you lay the groundwork for healthy habits. The pain and irritation of NUG can largely be avoided with simple dental hygiene practices.

Remind your college-age-child that it’s still important that he brushes at least twice a day, flosses once a day, and rinses with a fluoride mouthwash regularly. Replacing his toothbrush regularly is also important.

3. Maintain Regular Dental Checkups

Everyone should have a professional teeth cleaning every six months. Encourage your college kid to maintain this frequency of dental checkups by having the dentist contact him directly. If your student is living on a budget, as most are, suggest that he find a local dentistry school and inquire about a free checkup, teeth cleaning, and other services provided.

4. Avoid Sugary Snacks and Drinks

Alright, so everyone does it … every parent sends a care package of ‘goodies’ to their college student at some point. If that’s the case for you, be sure to opt for healthy options and avoid sugary snacks and drinks. It won’t keep your college kid from keeping all of the sugar out of his diet, but at least it will lay the groundwork for some healthier choices.

You may not have quite as much control over your college student’s daily habits as you did when he was at home, but you can still help him make good choices even from afar. Use these tips and emphasize the overall importance of good dental hygiene no matter where you kid is.