February is National Children’s Dental Health Month!!

“There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.”

Pediatric dental health is an issue very dear to my heart because of my own childhood experience. Let me explain. At the age of five, I chipped my two front teeth in a car accident. For nine years after-wards, I was teased and tormented because I looked like I chewed on steel for fun (yeah, like I’m that tough!). When I as fourteen, a local angelic dentist offered to fix it for all of $6.00. As a teen, I was happy to pay such a small sum to feel better about myself. That dentist really changed my life as my self-esteem and confidence soared because of his kindness. As I learned so many years ago, a person’s smile is a very important asset!

As a graduate student at Regis University, I began to research the link between self-esteem and dental health. I learned that people who did not like their smiles tended to have low self-esteem: they tended to isolate themselves, avoid taking risks and not live their lives to the fullest. I also found that most people who did not like their smiles often had some level of dental fear and that fear originated from childhood experiences. This dental fear caused them to not only avoid the dentist but avoid caring for their teeth in general.

Most often, dental fear is learned through vicarious learning. In other words, children are exposed to negative stories from parents or other people that portray dentists as frightening people. Movies can be especially bad, remember Steve Martin’s sadistic character in Little Shop of Horrors? Personally, I made the mistake of taking my four year old to the dentist the day after letting her watch Finding Nemo…. the poor girl thought her teeth were going to end up in a fish tank!

It is not uncommon, though, for children to take these stories to heart. It can help for them to have a more realistic picture of what actually occurs in the dental chair.

Surely, it is best if the child has been seeing a dentist before he or she is a year of age, so that they can have positive experiences to draw upon during check-ups. The reality is that not everyone can have that experience.

That is why I was inspired to create Tickle My Teeth, on on line story about visiting the dentist. Luckily, I had help from countless dentists and hypnodontists (dentists who practice hypnosis) and feel fortunate to be able to include several tips that these professionals generously offerred.

Honestly, it is a little too comprehensive to be published: kids get bored with such detail. But, if your child is truly curious about what happens at the dental office – this story is for them. There is a Spanish version on the website as well.

Also, the ADA has several fun links for children (coloring pages and activities): click the link and scroll down to Fun Activity Sheets for Kids.

Keep smiling you beautiful soul!

Do you have questions, comments or something that you’d like for me to write about? Please feel free to contact me and tell me about it!