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The Parent’s Guide To Building Healthy Dental Care Habits For Kids

For many parents, the struggle is real when it comes to getting their kids to brush their teeth the right way, but it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, there are many creative and effective ways to encourage kids to become more invested in their own dental health, and also to have fun at the same time.

Kids are a challenge, that’s for sure. Finding ways to get them to do their homework, clean their plate, or tidy up takes a lot of patience, and not every tactic will get the reaction you’re hoping for. The same is true for encouraging proper hygiene and self-care, including promoting positive dental health care habits. However, with the right approach, the right resources, and the right attitude, kids can definitely learn to keep their teeth clean and healthy with habits that will stick with them.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of strategies parents can use to help educate their kids in creative ways on the importance of taking care of their mouths, as well as teach them proper oral cleaning techniques that will keep teeth looking great and staying strong.

Get Started Early & Familiarize Kids With Dental Care Sensations

While it might not seem like a big deal to think about dental care before a kid has any teeth, the reality is that even from day 1 it is an important part of a child’s early development. As any parent can attest to, kids are often afraid or apprehensive about things that they find unfamiliar. The first time a child has a toothbrush in their mouth, it can be an overwhelming sensory experience, thereby creating a feeling of discomfort that can develop into an aversion.

To get kids familiar with these types of sensations early, so that it is not such a dramatic experience the first time, dentists recommend regularly massaging the child’s gums gently using a soft, clean cotton cloth before the teeth begin erupting from the gums. This mimics the same type of sensation a toothbrush produces, but in a very gentle and soothing way.

Once a child has teeth in place and it’s time to use a toothbrush, it can be very encouraging and comforting for the child to watch you brush your teeth, too. Anyone who’s watched a kid play house or pretend to drive a car knows that they love to mimic their parents and other adults, so make toothbrushing a family activity during the early stages and it’ll quickly become much more comfortable for them.

Educate Kids With Entertaining Dental Health Information

Getting kids to understand how serious dental health is and the dramatic impact it can have on their future is not easy. It takes a lot more than just sitting down with their parents and having a dry, factual lecture on tooth brushing and flossing. In fact, these types of approaches often have the reverse effect for some kids, making it seem like a chore that they just ‘have to do’. Fortunately, we live in an age where there are countless creative and entertaining materials parents can bring to the conversation that make it a heck of a lot more fun for kids.

There are lots of kids books you can find at any major book store that talk about dental health care in ways kids can understand, many of them featuring fun games they can play or experiments they can do themselves to experience some hands-on learning. There are even some episodes of famous kids TV shows that feature visits to the dentist, like Peppa Pig, Barney the Dinosaur, and Doc McStuffins.

In addition, there are dozens of unique and fun independently-created videos on the topic of dental health for kids that you can find on YouTube, like this great example from Colgate called ‘Catch the Nasties’.

 

One helpful thing to do is to make sure you watch these videos yourself before showing them to your kids. That way you can fully support their learning by reinforcing the messaging in the same manner as they’ve heard it, which helps it stick and be more memorable.

Track Progress & Consider Rewards For Milestones

Another effective way to encourage regular toothbrushing and oral cleaning habits is to use a milestone tracker that kids can use to mark off how often they brush, floss, or make other positive dental health choices, such as choosing water over sugary drinks or healthy snacks over candy. The idea is to make the tasks on the tracker achievable and simple, so that the kid can accomplish them independently and take ownership for their progress. There are plenty of printable templates you can find online, or encourage kids to craft their own tracker and decorate it however they want.

Work with the child to set different milestones to work towards, like going a whole week without being reminded to brush and floss for example, and assign small rewards for when those goals are met. It’s important to find the right balance that makes the rewards enticing enough that the kid continues to strive for them, but not so costly or involved that it becomes unmanageable for the parents. Most of the time, you’ll need to try a few different ideas before settling on the one that works best.

Involve The Kids In Selecting Dental Care Products

Kids love to have a voice in choosing things that are ‘just theirs’, even toothbrushes and dental care products. Spend a little time at home doing some research on the different tooth care products that are made just for kids, and find out what styles, colours, or characters they want on their toothbrush, what flavours of toothpaste they want to try, and what style of floss or interdental picks they like. Of course, parents get veto power, but you can offer them a selection of choices that meet the right criteria and have them pick from those. This way, they feel like it was their decision and you can be sure that they’ve chosen a quality product. Once they’ve got their list ready, take them to the store and have them get the products themselves off the shelves. Kids love the experience of acting like a grown up in the store, so we’d encourage you to go the extra mile, make a big deal of it, and have some fun.

Once you get home, you can play up the idea of the child being a ‘dentist product reviewer’, and have them ‘test out’ their new items and give them a fully detailed review. The idea is to make the entire process fun so that they’ll want to do it again and again and again, so the more you can promote dental health as a thing to get excited about, the more likely it is that they’ll respond positively.

Choose The Right Family Dentist For A Positive Experience

In addition to the at-home strategies to get kids more invested in their dental health, choosing the right clinic for your family’s dental care can make a big difference in a child’s whole perspective on what dentistry is all about. If you’re starting fresh in your search for a new family dentist, start by creating a short list of dentists that have a solid reputation in your local area by checking out online reviews on platforms like Facebook and Google. Make sure you dig deeper than just the star ratings and actually read the feedback provided by real patients.

You should also consider asking local friends and family who they trust in the area for their family’s dental care. For an even more relevant opinion you can ask permission to talk to their kids about what they like about their dentist. Chances are pretty good they’ll have some different things to say than their parents, and it will be very helpful in getting a kids-eye view of the dental experience offered by a particular clinic.

Ultimately, you’re going to want to look for a few key elements in a dental clinic that is great with children and will provide a positive environment with kids in mind. First impressions matter, so the friendliness of the dental clinic staff and the cheerful attitude they put forward towards kids should be obvious and apparent from the moment you walk in the door. It’s a good idea to visit the clinic yourself to get a feel for the environment before bringing your child there for the first time. Also, don’t hesitate to have an open and honest conversation with the clinic staff, and let them know your concerns. The best clinics will be totally forthcoming, and will take your concerns to heart to make sure you feel comfortable, and so will your kids every step of the way.

Start Out Right For A Lifetime Of Great Dental Health For Your Kids

The importance of maintaining a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums is undeniable, and the sooner you start, the easier it is to keep it up throughout your life. Giving your kids the best possible introduction to the benefits of oral health care sets them up with the skills and knowledge they need to make smart choices for themselves. Take these tips, customize them in whatever ways work best for your family, and start your kids down the path towards a lifetime of beautiful, strong, and healthy teeth. Contact the team here at Georgian Dental today to learn more and book an introductory appointment for your child. We look forward to seeing you soon!


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