Dear Mama Drama:
I have always hated going to the dentist and had lots of cavities and other problems growing up. I don’t want my kids to have the same fear and avoidance of dental care that I do. How can I help them have a positive experience with dental care and develop good brushing habits?
~ Traumatized Mama
Our own childhood experiences can lead us to avoid things with our children or to make them different than we experienced. You can make things different for your kids by being proactive.
Set a good example by brushing and flossing regularly in front of your kids. Show them that dental hygiene is an important and integral part of your personal health care. Research shows that a parent’s dental health can have a significant impact on children’s dental health through the sharing of cavity creating bacteria (or not with good dental hygiene) and by the example set.
Take your kids to the dentist early to help allay any fears and get them used to the office. Toddler office visits usually include exploring the office, brushing with the hygienist, and practicing opening up wide while the dentist counts their teeth and looks quickly for any early cavities. Starting with a pediatric dentist helps to keep it playful and developmentally appropriate.
Supervise their brushing or do it together. Create a systematic way to make sure all their teeth get brushed and work on their technique following your dentist’s recommendations. Use songs or rhymes to help them remember. Once they are old enough to brush more independently, continue to check periodically to make sure they are doing a good job.
Teach them the benefits and consequences related to oral hygiene. Talk about avoiding cavities by brushing and flossing regularly and moderating intake of sugary liquids and sticky sweet foods. Let them know that teeth with cavities and infected gums can be painful. Preventing them through regular brushing and flossing is an easy way to avoid that pain.
Take care of your own teeth and go to the dentist regularly. If you are going to the dentist twice a year for check ups and talking with your kids about it, they will be more willing to go. Since you feel traumatized from your childhood experiences, this may be a challenge. Interview dentists and find one you feel you can trust and who is compassionate about your feelings and experiences.
February is National Dental Health Month, so get brushing!
Share you dental hygiene challenges and successes!
Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.