Fear of the dentist’s office runs rampant, and children are some of the most affected patients. Between their uncertainty over what awaits them in the office, their association of dental treatment with potential discomfort or anxiety, and the simple fact that appointments just aren’t that exciting, many kids would rather be almost anywhere else. And society’s bias against dental care, which shows up across pop culture (try to remember the last time you saw a positive portrayal of a dentist), definitely doesn’t help. But that can change.
A recent University of California study examined kids’ attitudes toward their oral health – and findings were surprising. Kids showed that they believed that they should maintain healthy teeth as they age to help improve their quality and length of life (smart cookies). They also showed positive associations between healthy teeth and their social relationships, from school friends to dating (among teen subjects). They even showed recognition that orthodontic treatment would help their appearance and self image. So the foundational knowledge is there – we just need to follow through.
If you’re struggling to get your kids’ oral health on track, scroll down for some pointers that build off these findings and work with children’s innate understanding of the power of healthy teeth. Have questions for our staff? Get in touch today.
Most Effective Ways to Get Kids Caring for Their Teeth
- Talk about consequences – Your kids may not know exactly what happens when plaque starts building up in the mouth. It’s so easy to disrupt the plaque buildup process, and so much more difficult once it’s hardened into tartar or caused gum disease. Give your kids more information about why daily oral hygiene is absolutely necessary, and what the alternative could be.
- Schedule family exams (as a group) – Visit the office together, and your kids will feel more comfortable and less like they’ve been singled-out. Plus, fewer trips to the office necessary! You can have your own exam while visiting, too.
- Create incentives for cavity-free teeth – These incentives don’t have to be money-based, they can be as simple as your son or daughter getting to choose what’s for dinner or what they want to do that weekend. Having concrete rewards to work toward makes a big difference.
- Find dental products that they love – There are thousands of toothpastes, toothbrushes, flosses, mouthwashes, and associated products available – find the ones your children are actually excited to use.
- Visit the office regularly – The more often you visit, the more comfortable your kids will feel with the environment (and the less likely they’ll be to have plaque buildup or cavities).
- Try dental health activities that illustrate plaque and enamel erosion – The egg experiment is a great one.
- Don’t supply them with unhealthy snacks – Make sure your shopping list includes tooth-friendly treats and cuts down on problematic sugary or starchy snacks/drinks.
- Set aside oral hygiene time in daily routines – If your kids need to get up a few minutes earlier to have enough time to brush before school, make that call. Same goes for bedtime – there are always a few minutes available to clean their teeth.
- Use a brushing/flossing chart – Make things a little more competitive and get your kids to keep an eye on one another’s habits.
- Explore sedation options – If your child is extremely frightened of the office, sedation like nitrous oxide could be helpful.
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