Visiting the dentist as an adult can be stressful – so it’s no small wonder that many kids find the process scary, too. These parents’ best tips will help you encourage your kids to stay calm and happy during dental visits – and build essential tooth care habits that will last them a lifetime.
Help Them Learn Through Play
“Just like we play doctors and nurses or farmers and vets, we play at being dentists,” says Maria. “My 4-year-old son, Col, got a dentist game for his birthday, and he lines up all his stuffed animals, examines their teeth and tells them how important it is to brush. He wanted to look at my teeth and was fascinated by my fillings, so I said I ate too much sugar when I was little and it hurt my teeth, and the dentist had to fix them so I could eat. He could understand that, and he likes it when we brush our teeth together – he says he’s helping make sure I don’t get more fillings.” Encouraging behavior like this will not only help keep your kids calm, but it could also make them more eager to visit the dentist!
Choose a Dentist You View as a Friend
Many pediatric dentists work hard to make going to the dentist enjoyable – so seek out the ones who do. “Our dentist is a regular part of life for our 5-year-old, Liza, and our 2-year-old, Oliver,” says Jill. “His treatment room is bright and full of pictures that make the kids laugh, and they’ve been coming here since age 1. That might sound young, but it means that the dentist can identify any potential problems early on, and also helps the children get used to the idea of going. Oliver was a little shy in the beginning, so on the first few visits I laid on the chair with him, and we both got our teeth checked.”
Focus on Positive Talk
From a very young age, kids pick up on their parents’ feelings about all sorts of things – including the dentist. You might be positive about the dentist while talking directly to them, but make sure they don’t overhear conversations where you say otherwise – perhaps telling someone about a bad experience you’ve had at the dentist or complaining to your partner about how much you dislike getting dental care. Those negative comments are more likely to stick in their minds than your cheerful face-to-face encouragement.
Make Tooth Care a Regular Conversation
Nicole has always talked to her two daughters, Amber, 6, and Brenna, 3, about how important it is for kids’ teeth and bones to be strong and healthy – as opposed to focusing on the negative aspects of poor dental health. “I think if we ban treats completely we make them too attractive to children,” she says. “During the week, we make fruit our treat after meals, and during the weekend we all have chocolate or homemade cake rather than sticky sweets. We always try to brush our teeth after every meal, and I’ve never given them soft drinks – just milk or water.”
Lead by Example
Kids are highly observant and will pick up on our habits – good and bad – by watching what we do, so make sure you’re taking good care of your teeth and gums as well! Brush your teeth at least twice a day with Crest Pro-Health toothpaste to prevent cavities, gingivitis, plaque, sensitivity and bad breath. And remember to floss, too! We like Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Advanced, which removes plaque to help reverse gingivitis in two weeks. To remove 300 times more plaque along the gum line (versus a regular manual toothbrush), consider using an Oral-B Pro 6000 rechargeable electric toothbrush, which has a built-in timer to help you brush for the recommended two minutes.
Avoid Bribery or Scare Tactics
Help your kids realize that looking after their teeth is a necessity. Saying things like, “If you brush your teeth, you’ll get a present,” undermines the importance of tooth care. Instead, try to make brushing and flossing fun. Use products that appeal to kids specifically – such as the brightly colored Oral-B Pro-Health Stages battery-powered toothbrush and Crest Kids Cavity Protection Sparkle Fun toothpaste – to get them excited about the idea of regular brushing and make every visit to the dentist more successful.
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