Your child isn’t born with a fear of the dentist. Research suggests kids who are scared of visiting the dentist have learned it… from their parents. This is a big problem – especially when you consider that anxiety keeps an estimated 9-15% of Americans from going to the dentist.
Set your child up for a healthy future by promoting a positive experience with the dentist. Today we’re sharing our top tips for how to talk with your kids about the dentist and encourage good dental habits from the start.
Demonstrate healthy habits
We all know the saying, “monkey see, monkey do!” Lead by example and make sure your child sees you taking care of your own teeth and gums. Allow your child to watch as you brush and floss your teeth, and take advantage of opportunities to explain why cleaning your teeth is important.
Here are a few points you can discuss with your child during meal times or as they watch you brush your teeth.
- The difference between baby teeth and adult teeth
- What teeth are for
- What the toothbrush is doing
- Why you need to clean your teeth
- How it feels so nice to have clean teeth
Leading by example and highlighting the “why” will help your child realize that taking care of their teeth is something everyone has to do!
Make brushing & flossing fun
An important step in encouraging good dental health in your kids is establishing a routine of brushing and flossing. Children grow accustomed to and feel safe when they have this consistency.
Just make sure you come up with some ways to make this daily dental activity fun.
Use child-friendly products
Make tooth brushing and flossing an activity your child looks forward to by using kid-friendly dental products. Your little one will be much more interested in taking care of their teeth if it means using a colorful handheld flosser or a toothbrush with their favorite Disney character.
You may also want to try an electric toothbrush, as they’re easier for little hands to hold and will help your child get a proper clean. Some electric toothbrushes will even play a fun children’s song for 120 seconds (the recommended amount of time for brushing), which helps keep your child engaged and entertained for the full 2 minutes of brushing.
Make it a family event
Make brushing and flossing more fun by turning it into a group activity. Get the whole family in the bathroom, turn on some music, and bring some positive energy. With everyone doing it together, your child may be more inclined to view dental health in a positive light.
Avoid negative words
It might feel natural to assure your child by saying things like, “it won’t hurt!” or “don’t be scared!” or “it’s just a little shot!” but using words like this can actually have the opposite effect. For example, consider how a child who falls down often won’t start crying until their parent rushes over and makes a big deal of the situation.
Avoid using negative words when talking about the dentist, including:
You should also never use fear as a motivator. For instance, never threaten rotting teeth or a scary-sounding dental procedure to encourage your kids to take better care of their teeth. You may have good intentions, but it will only paint a frightening picture of the dentist in your child’s mind.
Schedule a meet and greet
It can be helpful to schedule a tour of your dental office with your child to help them feel more comfortable with the environment. Consider scheduling a meet and greet a week or so before your child’s dental appointment.
Find out if your dentist office has some time where you and your child can come visit with the front desk staff and walk through the office. Your goal is to help your child feel familiar with the space as this can greatly help lessen stress.
Remain calm during appointments
When it’s time to take your child in for an appointment, stay positive and upbeat. Just don’t make too big a deal about the appointment. Remember, kids pick up on unusual behavior and may start to suspect something is up.
During the appointment, don’t worry about making sure your child sits still in the chair. A good dentist can handle a wiggly child and will help them feel comfortable in the chair. Instead, your job is to remain calm and relaxed, and be sitting nearby as reassurance for your child.
If your child is feeling apprehensive about the appointment, bring along a comfort item like a stuffed animal, toy, or blanket. You can even invent a “safety signal” that your child can make if he or she ever needs a little break. Again, just remember to be careful about approaching these topics so as not to scare your child.
Choose a family-friendly dentist
Throughout your journey of teaching your child about good dental health, make sure you have a good dentist on your team. Choose a dentist office that specializes in providing a relaxing environment and positive, kid-friendly care.
At Radiance Dental, our Camas dental office is known for our gentle treatments and relaxing environment. We love helping children and families enjoy their dental appointments and would love to help you give your child a healthy dental future.
Learn more about what you and your child can expect from our office. Or call (360) 844-2141 to schedule an appointment or tour of the office with your little one. We’d love to hear from you!