When it comes to kids’ oral health, the key is to make things exciting. True, flossing is hardly a fun way to pass the time, but if you accompany each lesson with a song and dance, chances are your children will be more willing to pay attention.
I have two kids of my own: a seven and four-year-old. My daughter, the youngest, has proved especially headstrong when it comes to brushing her teeth. The key, I soon found, was to make it as fun as possible. I resorted to what I like to call ‘the fruit bat’ technique: holding her upside down by her feet while she brushed away.
Helping kids understand oral health
Now, when your child is brushing morning and night every day (as they should), this approach can get exhausting. Simpler techniques include buying fun little gadgets, like fidgets spinners, and downloading online applications to help your child associate ‘fun’ with looking after their teeth.
But kids’ oral health is about more than just developing a good habit. It’s important that children understand the reasons they go to the dentist. Using books to help make the clinic seem less scary is always a good approach. For my children, it was Peppa Big - The Dentist. This worked a charm for my little girl who was especially apprehensive about sitting in the chair.
I also try to give my younger patients a little prize for sitting still. I like to make balloon animals for the children. For my children, this is something especially familiar—they have grown up with me surprising them with my balloon creations, so it helps take the nerves out of the equation when they jump in the chair for me to look at their teeth. In fact, now my kids are excited to do so.
I realise, however, that not all children are the sons and daughters of a dentist. But whether you’re looking after your own kids’ oral health or taking them elsewhere to be treated, it’s important to talk about dentistry in a positive way. I find that, unfortunately, some parents who have had bad experiences in the past talk quite negatively about dentists and dentistry, which rubs off onto their children.
Beating the fear
The dentist isn’t someone to fear. Instead, make it sound fun and encourage your children that it's not a scary place. Encourage them to look after their teeth because it’s healthy, not because “The scary dentist will have to drill into your mouth.” Make them want to visit.
Still, some children are naturally really frightened on their first visit. If that’s the case, we tend to not do any treatment. We like to just make it fun. Fun is definitely the take-away message.
Give them a ride in the chair, blow up a balloon, and give them a prize for being so well-behaved. Maybe get them to open up if they can, and look in, and just try and build on top of that.