Although dental professionals do their best to make every child’s dental experience as positive as possible, parental involvement is just as crucial to a successful outcome. Without encouragement at home, kids are likely to skip on oral hygiene and miss the opportunity to build strong dental habits early on. Here are some tips for parents to help their children become more involved and consistent with their dental health routine:
1. Start a Dental Routine As Early As Possible
It’s really never too early to start a strong dental routine with your kids. As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, you have a chance to instill dental hygiene habits that can last a lifetime. For babies, you can start by wiping gums and baby teeth with a warm washcloth after feedings to clear away any debris that may have been left behind. As they grow older, you can start a baby brushing routine with a specially designed toothbrush and kid-safe toothpaste.
You should also try to avoid sugary foods and drinks, such as candy and juice, that can make your baby’s mouth more acidic and lead to tooth decay. Also, if your little one develops a taste for sweets as a baby, it will be harder to break that habit going forward, and you may have a harder time keeping those teeth clean.
2. Use Positive Reinforcement Methods at Home
Children are rarely ever self-motivated to practice good oral hygiene on their own. If you can make brushing a rewarding activity, children generally respond well to a type of structured system that involves positive reinforcement for good behavior. It could be something as simple as a star chart on a calendar where your kids get a sticker every time they brush their teeth before and after bed.
You can get even more creative and offer little incentives every time your children remember to brush their teeth without having to be reminded, such as an extra bedtime story or getting a special pancake breakfast over the weekend. It’s really up to you to make at-home oral hygiene a more positive experience for your kids, but it will help them build the essential dental habits needed for healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
3. Take Your Child With You to Appointments
It’s important for children to see that going to a dental appointment is routine and just a part of life. The more they’re exposed to it and see you relaxed during the appointment, the more positive their feelings will be towards it. If your child has questions about the dentist and what to expect, this is an easy way for them to see and experience it with you.
Of course, use your discretion when bringing your child to the dentist with you. If your appointment happens to be for a root canal or another procedure that involves numbing the mouth or has the potential to take a while, you may want to start off with more routine service, such as teeth cleaning.
4. Arrange for Your Child to Meet Their Dentist
Introducing your dentist in a non-threatening setting allows a connection to be made prior to your child being in the dental chair. This can be done while your child is with you for an appointment. Children are much more relaxed with a familiar face, especially when they’re nervous. This is especially helpful for kids who have a fear of the dentist.
You can also introduce your child to the rest of the staff, including the team at the front desk and the dental technicians who take the x-rays. The more familiar your child is with the office and the people in it, the less anxious they will feel about having to go. Having a general dentist who sees everybody in your family is an excellent way to bring a sense of familiarity and connection as well.
5. Set a Good Example
When at home, it’s up to you to teach good oral hygiene and to make sure your child knows how important it is to listen to their dentist. Making dental cleaning habits a routine will lead to less tooth decay later in life and less need for extensive procedures. If you prioritize dental hygiene at home, the more likely your child will as well.
Let your kids watch you floss and brush your teeth every day, and make it a point to talk about what you’re doing and why it’s necessary. If you were given specific care instructions from your dentist after a procedure, this is a perfect opportunity to show your kids how to follow directions too.
Prevention is Key
When it comes to pediatric dental care, the key is prevention. To avoid dental problems as adults, regular visits to the dentist for routine cleanings and check-ups as a child are necessary. Your dentist can help your child develop the best oral hygiene habits, but it’s up to you to make sure they’re doing it consistently at home. If you’d like to learn more tips on how to help your kids build healthy dental habits, contact the Absolute Dental team today! We’re here to answer all your questions regarding our pediatric dental services.