Everyone knows oral health is important, especially for kids. Now is the time to instill healthy dental habits in your little ones that will last a lifetime and give them a beaming smile.
That includes annual trips to the dentist to make sure everything is healthy.
Unfortunately, up to 20% of kids have anxiety about going to the dentist, even if they’ve never been before.
As a parent, you can help to ease those worries by starting healthy dental routines at home, talking to your kids, and even letting them get to know the dentist and what will happen at an appointment.
Let’s cover some of the best practices for kids’ dental care that will set you both up for successful smiles.
Have Your Child Get to Know Their Dentist
Most dentists – especially those who work specifically with children – understand that kids can be scared. So, they’re often willing to do whatever it takes to calm a child’s concerns and worries, even before an appointment.
Dental anxiety is a real problem for kids and adults alike. If your child doesn’t seem to be anxious about anything else, being there as a support system for them and letting them connect with their dentist ahead of time can help to ease that anxiety and calm their nerves.
Some easy ways to make your child more comfortable with their dentist include:
- Setting up a video chat
- Doing a meet and greet
- Showing up early to the appointment to “tour” the office
- Letting the dentist know about your child’s fear
You also shouldn’t wait for your child to be in pain or have a dental emergency before taking them in for a visit.
If they’re already struggling with severe discomfort, they’re probably going to have to undergo a more invasive procedure. If they’ve never been to the dentist before, that can be a traumatizing first experience.
A child should ideally see a dentist before their first birthday, and regularly after that for “check-up” appointments.
These simple appointments will help your child become more familiar with their dentist and make them understand that visits aren’t painful and scary.
Practice Good Oral Health at Home
Talking to your child about the importance of oral health can make them understand why they need to go to a dentist in the first place. Be sure to speak in terms they understand and make taking care of their teeth a fun experience.
You might consider saying something like “you’ve got sugar bugs in your teeth and we need to brush them away!”
What kid wouldn’t laugh about that, or be excited to get rid of those “sugar bugs”?
Simple oral health habits that you can start with your child at home include things like:
- Brushing twice a day
- Eating healthy foods
- Avoiding sugary drinks
Oral care should be a part of your child’s wellness toolbox. It’s a self-care practice that can help them to feel good about themselves.
Proper oral health care can actually reduce stress for you both since you’ll know their teeth are healthy and they’re less likely to experience pain or a dental emergency.
Plus, when you stress the importance of taking care of their teeth at home, they’ll know the dentist is just an extension of that care.
Keep Them Comfortable
When it’s time to go to the dentist for an appointment, the best thing you can do is to keep your child as comfortable and secure as possible. That might include letting them bring a favorite stuffed animal with them.
Or, you might consider packing your car with a few essentials like blankets or a family fun kit to keep them cozy and occupied along the way.
When you get to the appointment, your child needs to know you’re there if needed, but it’s also important to let the dental team take the lead.
Even if your child is older, only a dentist can answer their questions with the right information. If you’ve gone through all of the steps above to make sure your child knows who their dentist is, it should be easier for them to feel comfortable around the dental staff.
Be sure to manage your own anxieties when it comes to dental trips, too.
Children are extremely perceptive, and it doesn’t take much for them to pick up on your worries.
Even if those concerns only stem from your child’s fear, you could be making it worse, instead of easier. Stay calm, use comforting words and tones, and reassure your child that the dentist only wants to make sure their smile stays bright and beautiful.
Proper dental care starts at home. Use the habits and suggestions listed here to not only teach your kids about the importance of oral health but to assure they develop a positive relationship with the dentist that will encourage them to take care of their teeth for the rest of their lives.
***Author Bio: Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about health, wellness, and education, but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active journalism. Frankie spends her free time gardening or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.