9 Ways to Make Dental Hygiene Fun for Kidsby Dr Anthony Hua
Kids are experts at resisting the essentials that keep them in good health. Dental hygiene, eating veggies and bedtime are high on the ‘parental challenge’ list. Every parent struggles with when to, and when not to put the foot down in what can seem like endless confrontations with miniature versions of themselves.
At times you need to pick your battles, but when it comes to dental hygiene don’t lose this one. A great dental routine is one of the best lessons you can teach your child.
At Burleigh Dental Studio we have a keen focus on preventative dentistry. Established dental hygiene from a very young age is your ticket to worry-free dental visits, and a heart-melting happy grin growing into a well loved and healthy smile throughout adulthood.
The alternative can be devastating to your child’s current and future oral health, and quite traumatic for kids and their parents. We’re all about nurturing little smiles, and like you, we deal with the anxieties and resistance every day. Together with our parent patients who have tried
EVERYTHING to instill good oral hygiene habits in their kids, we have comprised our top nine tips to make good dental hygiene fun for your kids – and therefore second-nature. Kids just want to have fun after all.
It’s never too early to start good oral hygiene habits
Your infant is the greatest observer of everything that you do. While these are the fleeting months where you can sneak off for a quick shower while they’re napping, do try to brush and floss your teeth as they watch, and look like you’re having a GREAT time while you’re doing it. As soon as they figure out how to move their arms properly, they’ll want to have a go too! Kids love to mimic everything you do, if your bub likes to pretend to brush their teeth, you’re well on your way to successfully instilling healthy dental habits.
Baby teething tooth brushes
It might sound a bit silly to get your child a toothbrush before they’ve cut a tooth; but there are some excellent silicone ‘teether toothbrushes’ on the market that bubs just love. The silicone bristles are soft, and won’t damage gums, and bubs love the feeling of the bristles on their gummy smile. They can chew it like there’s no tomorrow as they teethe and get used to the concept of having a ‘brush’ in their mouth. One particular product that one of our parent patient swears by is the baby banana teether toothbrush, by Baby Tooth Land. Developed by an Australian Dental Hygienist, it’s dishwasher safe and a smash hit with the littles ones.
Lead by example – bring your kids to your dental appointments
Do you really expect your kids to religiously brush and floss their teeth and trot merrily to their regular dental appointments if you don’t do it? Do as I say and not as I do rarely works with kids these days. We understand the plight of the busy parent who doesn’t have oodles of spare time to spend flossing; but if you strive hard to do it every day, it demonstrates to your kids that this is a normal part of life. Stick to your regular dental check-ups and cleans, and bring your little one along with you so they can watch and become familiar with the environment. A good dentist will keep your kids entertained and make the experience a fun and welcoming one.
Get down with a tooth brushing song
Make a song and dance about it – in a good way. There’s good reason 200 Aussies search the term “tooth brushing song” on Google every month. Kids love a singalong, melodies are their first language. Sprinkle a bit of song into your tooth brushing routine and be sure to brush your teeth along with them in the mirror as you do. Some experts recommend parents brush their children’s teeth up to ages 5 or 6 to ensure a thorough clean; but we think the kids should be having a go first, and you finish the job if need be. This tooth brushing song is a chart topper for frustrated parents at the moment. We’re sorry this will get stuck in your head all night; but it’s for a good cause…enjoy!
Collect tasty toothpaste and funky brushes
There is a whole swathe of delectable kids toothpaste flavours out there. Why not collect a smorgasbord of strawberry, banana, blueberry and bubblegum toothpaste for them to choose from. An assortment of toothbrushes is always fun too. Look for brushes themed around their favourite shows and characters. Kids love to have a choice and feel as though they’re in control. Toothbrushes with a built-in flashing light can help you extend brushing time. Typically, with these brushes the light flashes for one minute to encourage kids to keep brushing until it goes off. They do one minute, then it’s your turn for the second minute to ensure thoroughly clean chompers.
Make a game of it
Most of the time there won’t be tears and tantrums when you suggest playing a game with your child (we know there can be unpredictable exceptions); but in general, kids respond well to the promise of a game. You can let your child brush your teeth and celebrate every sparkling tooth successfully cleaned. Have them brush their doll or stuffed animal’s teeth as you do theirs. Pull funny faces together in the mirror and snap a few selfies. The more fun memories they have of toothbrushing time, the more they might actually look forward to it.
Bribe them, but not with treats
Well, not so much as bribe; but offer them a small non-sugary reward for looking after their teeth well. Small children can’t resist a sticker, and older kids would love to sit on the lounge with you reading their favourite book or being allowed to stay up 15 minutes later than usual. You might hide some ‘treasure’ somewhere in the bathroom or their bedroom for them to find. You know your wee one’s favourite things better than anyone, take the opportunity to leverage the power of the things they love at tooth-care time.
Keep your cool, keep it positive and make sure it doesn’t feel like punishment
This is particularly difficult at the end of a long day of mini-battles with your mini-me. You might need to psych yourself up or meditate or something; but it’s important to try to keep it light and keep your cool when your child starts pushing your buttons. And they do, they really, really do.
If teeth cleaning starts to feel like a negative time, your kids could become anxious and the resistance may become the habit, rather than good oral hygiene. This feeling of negativity can ultimately lead to dental anxiety and even dental phobia later in life. Rise above the drama with a cool, calm, collected, fun approach as much as humanly possible. It will eventually irk them into joining in the fun if you’re having a whale of a time and they’re not.
Choose an excellent family-friendly dentist.
Some dental clinics are just downright scary for little people (and big people too). Empathy in dentistry is everything. Find a child-friendly dental studio with a light, and welcoming vibe. Great dentists and their staff should be highly trained on dental phobia and have the ability to work well with the anxieties of people of all ages.
Your dentist should be understanding and sensitive to your child’s fears and try to entertain and engage with them at their level. It’s hardly inspiring to a child when the dentist just talks to their parents and pays no attention to their worries. Negative early experiences can stay with you for life – and positive ones can too.
We all want the best for our children
Parents have the toughest job in the world. Doing everything you can to ensure your child develops a positive association with dental care can set them up for a dazzling smile for life.
Dental anxiety is very common with 10-15% of patients avoiding the dentist because of fear and anxiety. This fear is often developed from childhood and can worsen over time. Avoiding the dentist can be costly in more ways than one. It almost always leads to dental health neglect, and a vicious cycle that typically means more time spent at the dentist, with painful and costly complications.
If you yourself experience dental anxiety and your fears might be holding you back from setting the best example for your child, we can help enable you to overcome that fear. Dental technology and techniques have come a very long way in recent years, and we genuinely care about your overall wellbeing. Allow us to help you restore trust in your dentist and in developing confident oral health care habits for yourself, and your family.
Article by Dr Anthony Hua – Principal Dentist
Dr Anthony Hua is the Founder & Principal Dentist at Burleigh Dental Studio. His passion, expertise and dedication to the field of dentistry have been recognised by his achievement of Fellowship status with the Australian Society of Implant Dentistry (ASID) and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI).
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