9 ways to get kids jazzed about dental health

January 28, 2013

We all know a trip to the dentist isn’t usually on the fun-day to-do list for any kid. With younger patients, the dentist office often gets a bad rap. With so much working against you, how are you supposed to get children to understand the importance of dental health and not fear the dental chair? As difficult as it may seem, there are simple ways to help younger kids to get interested in proper teeth care and not assume the tantrum position as soon as they come through the door.

We all know a trip to the dentist isn’t usually on the fun-day to-do list for any kid. With younger patients, the dentist office often gets a bad rap.

With so much working against you, how are you supposed to get children to understand the importance of dental health and not fear the dental chair? As difficult as it may seem, there are simple ways to help younger kids to get interested in proper teeth care and not assume the tantrum position as soon as they come through the door.

Try a few of these easy tips and office adjustments to put your young patient at ease and get them pumped to take care of their dental health as they grow.

1. Break it down. This is a no-brainer, but worth mentioning. Avoid words like “hurt” or “shot” or “painful.” Use simple words to describe the procedure. Some dentists and hygienists will demonstrate the procedure on a doll or another person before performing the procedure on the child.

2. Make toothbrushes fun. No one knows more about all the fun toothbrush options for kids out there than you. Instead of going the normal pink or blue route, consider investing in kid-friendly, fun brushes. Make them proud of their toothbrush so they can’t wait to get home and get brushing.

3. Coloring and activity pages. Children-friendly books on dental health are great, but don’t overlook coloring pages for them to immerse themselves in while in the waiting room. You can download a variety of free coloring and activity pages from the American Dental Association here.

4. Music. Adults may enjoy the local radio station or instrumental tunes in the background, but they don’t resonate with the kids. Consider investing in a way to play kid-friendly tunes near the youth dental chair, whether it is a small CD player or a playlist you can stream from an iPod.

5. Let them show off their pearly whites. Consider creating a smile board in your dental practice. Most children love smiling for a camera, so after each appointment take a photo of them for the board. Let them know that regular dental care is important to their smile, which is on display.

6. Divert them. Tell stories or engage the child in conversation as a means of drawing attention away from the procedure.

7. Positive reinforcement. Make the trip to the dental chair fun by offering “bravery awards.” Positive reinforcement through small, tangible rewards (stickers, pretend tattoos, baseball cards) can be useful incentives for cooperation and for “brave behavior.”

8. Outside help. While it may be too far from the norm for many dental practices, some are bringing in therapy animals, such as even-tempered dogs, to help ease the stress level of younger children. One thing’s for sure, younger patients would be looking forward to their appointment. Check out this pediatric dentist from Williamsburg, N.Y., and his therapy dog in a patient’s lap.

9. Environment matters. If you treat kids and adults in your practice, it’s understandable why you wouldn’t want to have bold colors and cartoons covering the office. But, a small space is a nice touch to put kids at ease, while also distracting them. If there is one area or room used for treating younger patients, consider sprucing it up with some kid-friendly pizzazz. If kids feel like the space is meant for them with familiar themes, stress levels won’t be sky high.