Most people don’t enjoy going to the dentist, or even brushing and flossing, and in many cases, these negative associations start in childhood. But is it possible to make dentistry fun? Though that may seem like a stretch, kids learn to tolerate and even enjoy countless things they once hated; plenty of bath averse little kids need to be dragged out of the shower as teens. The same principles apply to oral care. With the right incentives, positive reinforcement, and a little creativity by parents and dentists, kids can find joy in caring for their teeth.
Get Some Tooth Tunes
If the “Baby Shark” phenomenon has reminded us of anything, it’s that kids get really excited about music and that music can build positive associations. So why not introduce music into your child’s brushing routine? Many popular children’s programs, including Sesame Street and the Youtube infamous Little Baby Bum, have their own brushing songs, as does the American Dental Association, but you don’t have to pick tooth care specific songs. Pick any song that makes your kids excited to head to the bathroom and start brushing, even if it means listening to a few more rounds of (you guessed it) “Baby Shark.”
Play And Explore
Not every strategy for engaging children around oral care actually involves poking around in their mouths. Rather, kids get excited about learning new things and like to share that information with others. With this in mind, spend some time doing tooth-focused activities with your children, such as practicing fine motors skills by stringing paper teeth onto floss, playing sorting games that teach about healthy eating, or make tooth crafts to decorate your bathroom. And don’t forget to encourage them to bring their crafts to share with the dentist – it can help spark a connection and make appointments go more smoothly.
Brushing teeth and talking about oral care at home is one thing, but even kids who brush and floss may not be so happy to take a seat in the dentist’s chair – especially if they have cavities. So how do you make this part fun? The first step is to take kids to the dentist regularly, typically starting around their first birthday. When kids start going to the dentist that early in life, it will seem less scary later.
As for the scary stuff, if your kids have cavities, that’s when it’s time to pull out all the stops, and one tool you should consider is colored fillings. Older kids have always had the option to add color to their orthodontia with brightly colored bands, but now younger kids can choose colored fillings, making them a little less stressed about going under the drill. Even if they still feel worried during the process, they’ll have something special to look forward to when the dentist is done.
Pull Out The Props
No matter how much preparation you give your kids, sometimes the trip to the dentist will be a challenge, and when that happens, it’s time to get silly. Pull out all the props, whether it’s sunglasses to shield their eyes from the bright overhead light, swimming nose plugs to block out all those smelly products, or the old standbys: stickers and Netflix. They can’t talk during a dental procedure anyway, so they might as well be fully distracted by the latest episode of Paw Patrol.
Ultimately, if you hope to raise children who enjoy, or at least tolerate, proper oral hygiene, it all comes down to three principle strategies: start early, make it fun, and give kids some control. If you can abide by these rules from the start, you’ll have given your children the best possible start in terms of oral health. They’ll thank you when they’re old enough to realize how much it costs to take care of those cavities.