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Help! My teenager is refusing to smile!

Help! My teenager is refusing to smile! | The Dentists Blog

I remember the first time a parent came to talk to me about their child not wanting to smile. She told me her 13-year-old had asked her to remove photos on Facebook “Because when I smile, I look ugly”, a statement no parent wants to hear. She said her daughter is beautiful and usually very confident.

The mother was visibly upset and had no idea how to approach this. The conversation sat deeply with me for a long time and unfortunately it wasn’t the last time I’ve heard this. More and more we get teenagers in the door that refuse to smile. To support you and your teenager through this, we have come up with some advice:

3 ways you can help

Listen to their worries

Sometimes we struggle to really listen. Often, we listen to talk rather than listen to understand. I can’t stress this enough, try and really listen to your teenagers’ concerns and validate their feelings. The reason they refuse to smile is largely due to how they feel about themselves. You will most likely not feel the same way but let them know their feelings are normal and common! This will take out a lot of the anxiety for them.

Mirroring ACTUALLY works

“Do as I say not as I do” might be a popular saying but it definitely doesn’t work in this instance. We all know that smiling is contagious, use that knowledge to your benefit! If you smile you are much more likely to get a smile in return. Make smiling part of everyday interactions with your teenager. 

Muscle Development

The face, and therefore the muscles, in a pubescent child change significantly. Smiling takes the use of at least 10 muscles, whereas frowning only uses 6 muscles. These muscles need to be trained in order to create automation and gain muscle memory. The more your teenager smiles the more natural it becomes.

2 ways your teenager can feel empowered

Healthy habits

It is important to create healthy habits and we can start new habits at any time. Talk to your teenager about creating a habit around smiling. It’s easiest to smile when you are actually having fun! So, get out and do fun things with them to encourage smiles.

Practice Smiling

Yes, this might sound silly but sit down together in front of a mirror and practice smiling. It may be awkward to start with but it will get the conversation going and might even cause a giggle or two. Discover the different ways to smile (did you know you can smile with your eyes?!). Discuss the different muscles as you use them and make it a fun bonding activity.

1 Last, but not least: Talk to The Dentist

Does my teenager need braces or Invisalign?

This is where we come in! 

Finding out that teenagers feel too self-conscious to smile breaks my heart.  I have had many conversations with young people and often find that hearing from someone else that their smile is beautiful,  makes it easier for them to believe. 

We can also put in place a plan of action to slowly rectify any issues you might have. 

We are most concerned about things that might harm your child’s physical well-being, such as an overbite or night time snoring (link to snoring blog post). We will help you prioritise things that need to be done such as a plan to get traditional braces or Invisalign.

Having an action plan helps teenagers to feel in control and empowered to make a change. 

Get started with making small changes in yourself by smiling more, talk to your teenager and if you need: give us a call! 


We would truly love to bring a smile to you and your teenager


Tauranga Rotorua Taupo Taradale Whanganui