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    8 ways to get kids to care about dental hygiene

    Tips you can use to help your youngest patients invest in their oral health.

    It’s summer, which means you’ll probably see a lot more kids in your practice, as parents regularly try to schedule their kids’ dental exams while school’s out.

    Though you make their cleaning and exam fun and educational when they visit, getting kids to care about their dental hygiene the rest of year might be more challenging. “Young kids can have a hard time grasping why dental hygiene is so important,” says Bobbi Stanley, DDS, of Stanley Dentistry in Wake County, North Carolina. “Brushing and flossing can feel like a chore if they don’t understand what can happen to teeth that aren’t well-cared for.”

    Related article: Why kids deserve special treatment in the dental practice

    Here are eight ways your office can get kids interested in their own dental hygiene:

    1. Parents are the role models

    When it’s time to talk to mom or dad about how everything looks, remind them that they’re the role models at home when it comes to dental hygiene. “The habits parents set for children will impact their oral health for the rest of their lives, and the better care they take of their teeth when they’re young, the better shape they’ll be in when they have kids of their own,” Stanley says.

    2. Make the visit kid-centric

    Help make kids as comfortable as possible when they visit. Just like adults, some are more squeamish and reticent to be there than others.

    Children's toothbrush“Our waiting rooms are stocked with toys, puzzles, video games and movies to keep kids entertained, while our exam rooms are decorated with bright, colorful schemes and decals to further contribute to a pleasant atmosphere,” says Steven DeLisle, DDS, founder of Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas. “This environment helps young children establish a positive relationship with the dentist, transforming the dentist’s office into a place they can look forward to visiting rather than dreading,” DeLisle says. When kids like to visit, it correlates to caring about their teeth.

    3. Plaque disclosing tablets

    A good trick for kids who try to skip out of two minutes of brushing every night? Offer them plaque disclosing tablets and have them chew a tablet after brushing and flossing at night. The harmless dye in the tablet reacts to plaque, so they can see for themselves the spots they missed if they rush through their routine.

    4. Encourage dress up

    Notify parents via recall that you welcome kids in costume, especially if they have their Halloween costume lying around. “I’ve treated Superman and Cinderella before,” Stanley says. It can be a really good way to give kids an extra dose of courage and make trips to the dentist feel more like a special occasion. “It’s also a good way to reinforce the idea that dentists are the ‘good guys,’ who help superheroes and princesses keep their teeth protected,” she says.

    Related article: 10 ways to handle parents of your pediatric patients

    5. Offer praise

    Most kids love to be recognized when they do something right, so offering praise for good oral care can lead to even better oral hygiene. Kids need instant gratification, so point out the things that look good or that they’re doing right and make a big deal of it to them, their siblings and their parents.

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