Five tricks to help your kids enjoy going to the dentist

Fear of the dentist is common for children, but with these ideas you can put them at ease - and they might even enjoy the experience...

As an adult, visiting the dentist can be a stress-inducing experience - so it's no wonder that many children find the process scary, too.

But these tips from mums like you will help your kids stay calm and happy, while you're helping keep their teeth in tip-top shape.

Help them learn through play

"As well as doctors and nurses, or farmers and vets, we play at being dentists," says Maria O'Donnell, 28. "My four-year-old son, Col, got a dentist's game for his birthday. He lines up all his stuffed animals and examines their teeth and tells them how important it is to brush.

"He wanted to look at my teeth and was fascinated by my fillings. I told him I ate too much sugar when I was little and hurt my teeth, and the dentist had to fix them so I could eat. He could understand that, and he likes it when we brush our teeth together - he says he's helping make sure I don't get more fillings."

Encouraging play like this will not only help keep your children calm, but will also help them to understand why they need to go to the dentist - and could even make them excited about their trip.

Choose a dentist you view as a friend

Many paedriatric dentists work hard to make going to the dentist enjoyable - so seek out the ones who do this.

"Our dentist is a regular part of life for our five-year-old, Liza, and our two-year-old, Oliver," says Jill Mercy, 33. "His treatment room is bright and full of comic pictures that make the kids laugh, and they've been coming here since age one. That might sound young, but it means the dentist can identify any potential problems early on, and also the children get used to the idea of going.

"Oliver was a little shy in the beginning, so on the first few visits I lay on the chair with him and we both got our teeth checked."

Focus on positive talk

Kids pick up on their parents' feelings about all sorts of things from a very young age. You might be positive about the dentist while talking directly to them, but be careful they don't overhear conversations where you say otherwise - perhaps telling someone a scary story of a bad experience you've had at the dentist or complaining to your partner about how much you dislike having a cleaning. That's more likely to stick in their minds than your cheerful encouragement.

Make tooth care a regular conversation

Nicole Bunde, 30, has always talked to her two daughters, Amber, six, and Brenna, three, about how important it is for kids' teeth and bones to be strong and healthy - as opposed to focusing on the negative aspects of poor dental health.

"I think if we ban treats completely we make them too attractive to children," she says. "During the week, we make fruit our treat after meals, and at the weekend we all have chocolate or homemade cake rather than sticky sweets.

"We always try to brush our teeth after every meal, and I've never given them soft drinks, only milk or water."

Learn more about how to care for your kid's dental health based on their age here.

Avoid bribery or scare tactics

Help your kids realise that looking after their teeth is a necessity. Saying things like, "If you brush your teeth you'll get a present", undermines the importance of tooth care.

Instead, aim to make brushing and flossing fun. Using products that appeal to kids specifically - such as the brightly coloured Disney-themed Oral B toothbrushes and toothpastes - will get them excited about the idea of regular brushing, making every visit to the dentist that much more successful.

What have you done to help your kids enjoy going to the dentist? Share your tips with us in the comments section below...