Have you experienced challenges when it comes to your kids’ dental appointments?
If so, you are far from alone. It’s common for kids to encounter some anxiety when it comes to dental appointments—after all, many adults feel that way too! Here are some tips for helping de-stress trips to the dentist for your child:
1. Be the example
Kids mimic what they see in the adults in their lives. If you treat dental appointments as no big deal, then kids will often feel more comfortable.
One idea (if your dentist agrees) is to have your child observe your own hygiene appointment. We know some great hygienists who talk to watching kids about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Kids usually enjoy having some involvement, like being able to pick out the rinse or toothpaste flavor you will use.
Observing helps them to understand what is happening at their own appointments and that it’s really not a scary thing. If you remain calm and open through your appointment, the message that it’s just a normal part of life is communicated more clearly. (Note: If you are someone who suffers from dental anxiety yourself, this may not be the right strategy for you.)
2. Make healthy connections
The groundwork for less-stressful dental appointments always begins at home, with the conversations we have with our kids. It’s important that kids learn about how choices matter in terms of their overall health, including their teeth!
Helping kids to develop a healthy relationship with food has strong implications for their dental and ongoing health. And yet, there’s a delicate balance between talking to your kids about healthy eating and inadvertently instilling unhealthy relationships with food.
Keep it light and fun for your kids. Food is fuel and that’s a healthier way to look at it rather than “good” or “bad” foods. One thing you can do is engage them in different ways, such as where their food comes from and how it is prepared. Some fun ideas include:
- Show them where healthy foods come from. You could take a field trip to a farmer’s market or to a farm where they can see the food being grown.
- Create a chart of healthy snacks that they can choose from at home.
Take an interactive approach to teaching kids about the sugar content in various drinks (and the relationship between sugar and their dental health!). This Pinterest board shows several cool ways to demonstrate “rethink your drink.”
- Teach kids early on that their food choices matter. This New York Times article has some solid advice for parents who might be worried about tackling a subject that can be delicate.
Get kids involved in food choices and preparation! This helps to fuel their interest about food and how it’s prepared. It’s important to foster a healthy curiosity with food from a young age, even when getting kids to engage can feel exhausting! Little Bites Nutrition provides some great nuggets of wisdom on their Facebook page with ideas for getting kids involved with their food.
Photo by C Technical
3. Explain the importance of their teeth
Kids (especially younger ones) often see brushing their teeth as another chore. If you can help them to understand how important their teeth are for a lot of different health reasons (including the ability to chew their favorite foods!), it can help them to feel more comfortable with going to the dentist.
Photo by @Blavon
We’ve written previously about the importance of baby teeth for overall health—you can find that here, along with a special download for a loose tooth chart. This is a great way to engage them to take an interest in their teeth and oral hygiene.
If getting kids to brush their teeth properly is a struggle, here are a few suggestions to “gamify” the experience:
- Use a two-minute egg timer with colorful sand. Kids learn to keep brushing all quadrants of their mouth until the sand has emptied.
- Buy them a special toothbrush (there are a few on the market) that flashes or plays music for two minutes while they brush.
- Try a fun app like Brush DJ. This free app will play two minutes of music from your iTunes library and buzz every 30 seconds to remind kids to start on a new quadrant of their mouth.
4. Incorporate dental storybooks at storytime
Normalizing trips to the dentist by reassuring kids that others are regularly going too can help to alleviate some dental anxiety. A great strategy to help with this is to read dental-themed books at storytime.
There are a number of great options to quell fears and explain more about what’s going on at the dental office. Here are some good examples:
- The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss. This is a classic about teeth and why you need to care for them.
- The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller. Great for elementary kids to learn fun facts about teeth and dentistry.
- Sugar Bugs by Erica Weisz and Sam Weisz. For preschoolers or young readers and to help them learn about the impacts of sugar on teeth.
- This Pinterest board has several good book examples, too.
If kids’ dental trips present a challenge in your family, we can totally empathize. It’s often not easy for kids going into an unfamiliar environment with strange sounds and “weird” practices. Many adults are uncomfortable with lying still and keeping their mouth open while someone else pokes around inside!
We hope that you found something to try to ease the stress for your child. Starting them on this path early can set them up for healthy life habits.
So, now you know how to make the dentist less stressful—but what about making a dentist an even better, positive experience? Here are some additional Quick Tips to Make Kids’ Dental Trips Fun!
Photo by Lindsay Mears
The Tooth Fairy has an important role to play in bringing childhood magic to losing teeth and in helping to promote dental awareness. Check out our amazing Tooth Fairy gift sets here to help your child “hold the magic” just a bit longer!