Prepping Your Kids for Their Dentist Visit: The Easy Way!
Having kids and being a parent is a wonderful, enjoyable experience, but it’s also fraught with challenges, especially where keeping your children healthy is concerned. In particular, getting kids to the dentist and getting them to care about oral hygiene can be trying. Many children are afraid of dental checkups and don’t yet understand the importance of taking care of their teeth. We’ve talked briefly about how to ensure your kids have healthy teeth, but parents also wonder how best to get their children acclimated to the process of going to see the dentist regularly, brushing their teeth, etc. and there is plenty of useful information out there to help.
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To begin, a note about when you should first take your child to the dentist. A common misconception is that since baby teeth will fall out anyway, it’s not important to take your child to the dentist until their permanent teeth appear. This line of thinking can be detrimental to your child in the long run, as allowing baby teeth to decay and go uncared for increases the likelihood of decay in permanent teeth. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child for their first dentist visit before their first birthday.
The dentist’s office can be a scary prospect for a youngster, though, so finding a kid-friendly dentist with ample experience is key to helping your child feel comfortable. To further ease them into the idea of visiting the dentist, have them meet with the dentist on the first visit, who then (if they are competent and good with kids) can calmly explain to a child what they will be doing during the appointment. Kids can catch on pretty quickly, and when you take the time to explain things to them, they can generally take it to heart. Besides, they might become genuinely intrigued hearing about rotary toothbrushes, fluoride coating, and cavity creeps.
During that first visit, stay with them to provide reassurance if possible, and answer any questions your child might have about the process honestly and concisely. Once the visit is over, congratulate them on being well-behaved, and hook them up with a prize. Most dentist’s offices have a nice goodie jar that kids can choose a trinket from, further associating the dentist with something positive as opposed to an ordeal to be suffered through.
It’s also important not to transmit any of your own hang-ups or negative vibes about visiting the dentist to your child. Your kids can pick up a surprising amount of your negative energy, and that includes feelings about visiting the dentist. Remember, your role should be to support your child through their visit, not transplant your cynical fears to their impressionable mind.
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Once the hard work at the doctor’s office is through, you’ll need to start instilling good oral hygiene habits. Here are some helpful initial hints: Diet is first and foremost. Sugary snacks stick to teeth and increase the risk for decay, so discourage the overindulgence of these sorts of treats in favor of healthier options. Encourage your child to cease all sucking habits, as they can potentially cause tooth misalignment. Lastly, help your child brush their teeth properly, twice a day is a good start. Use a soft, kid-sized brush and a small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Remember the golden rules of proper brushing technique:
1) Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
2) Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
3) Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
4) To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
5) Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.
And there you have it! Getting kids interested in taking care of themselves isn’t difficult when you lay out in both fun and practical terms what it is that’s required of them. Remember to keep things light, let them ask questions, and to stay positive, and getting your kids to not only endure but to enjoy going to the dentist is, dare we say it, a piece of cake!
What are some of the ways you encourage your children to take care for their teeth? Do you have any tips for prepping your kids for their dentist visit? Share with us in the comments below!