Back to school is a busy time of year, but as your kids are getting ready to start up another school year, don’t forget to make time for the essential back-to-school dental visit. Along with their new backpacks, fall clothes and haircuts, they should be ready to greet their classes with a beautiful and healthy growing smile.
Dental checkups are just as important as regular medical checkups for children. While they’re imperative for catching any existing or potential problems early on and correcting them, it can be difficult to invoke kids’ excitement, or even their cooperation, when it comes to maintaining their own periodontal health. After all, how could going to the dentist be as exciting as picking out new clothes and accessories to show off in September? With your help it can be!
The back-to-school dental checkup can be just what parents and kids need to make the transition from long summer days to productive school nights. Besides that, daily periodontal health practices can serve as a great foundation for busy schedules—helping kids find structure and security amidst homework, new friends and afterschool activities. To make it easier and more enjoyable for both kids and parents, here are some ways to get your child interested in their dental care this fall:
- Brush to their favorite song: This helps keep track of time and keeps them focused on something that they already enjoy.
- So many choices! Which toothbrush to choose: Bright colors and favorite characters keep them interested. You can even try an electric toothbrush. They often have lights, music, vibrate and move around, keeping children engaged. If they are excited to use their toothbrush, they’ll be more likely to do a better job at brushing. Just ensure that the toothbrush indicates ADA approval.
- Save the date: To add to the excitement of a new toothbrush and encourage consistent brushing over time, mark the family calendar three months from the day your child selected their back-to-school toothbrush. Something as simple as looking forward to picking out a new toothbrush in the near future can be a great incentive for young kids.
- Pick a toothpaste flavor they’ll enjoy: While you may hate the taste of bubblegum, it might be your child’s favorite flavor. If they are using flavored toothpaste they enjoy, they won’t be in a rush to get the brushing over with. As long as the toothpaste is ADA approved for children and contains fluoride, pick something that can be all theirs alone. A few dollars spent on a favorite toothpaste can save you a lot in the long run as cavities are prevented.
- Use colored floss: Even for adults, it can be difficult to get into the habit of flossing. If kids are excited about using floss in their favorite color, they’ll be all the more likely to pick up the habit. Flossing with your child before bed is a great teaching experience and a surprisingly simple way to bond and focus after a busy day. When they’ve reached the end of their floss roll, reward a job well-done and get them excited about picking out a new color or flavor.
- Reward them (without candy): Pencils, erasers, a new book, a trip to the playground, a weekend slumber party, anything that lets them know that you appreciate their good behavior, can be a real motivator for kids. You can also use a points system that leads up to a bigger reward at the end of the month or rewards based on the end of a tube of toothpaste or following a cavity-free dental checkup.
- Give them a role model: Post up a picture of their favorite pop star or character to give them motivation to keep their smile as healthy as their idols. Even better than that, act as a role model yourself by brushing and flossing with your kids. If your child sees you emphasizing good oral hygiene, they’re more likely to take their own health seriously throughout their lives.
- Use a timer: An egg timer or hourglass can help keep track of how long your child is brushing their teeth. It keeps them from rushing through and taking the time to prevent those cavities.
- Try a science experiment: Your child may not know why it’s so important to brush their teeth. Place an egg in vinegar for two days and observe how the egg softens, just like the enamel on a tooth does if you don’t brush them. Similarly, you could cut a hole in an apple and pretend it’s a cavity. Check on the apple over the course of a few days and look at the effects.
Keeping oral care fun will keep your child interested in maintaining a healthy smile. Along with regular checkups, you can better ensure the health of your child’s smile by developing regular dental habits at a young age.
Don’t forget to schedule those pediatric, back-to-school appointments!