Regular dental visits are just as important as daily brushing and flossing for your family’s overall dental health, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to make and keep those appointments. You’re probably very busy – and so is everyone in your family – so sometimes it’s easy to let these visits slide. After all, you tell yourself, everyone is brushing and flossing. Isn’t that good enough?

Unfortunately, it really isn’t. So in order to ensure that everyone in your family is getting the care they need, it’s important to include a professional exam and cleaning on a regular basis.

So how do you make these visits part of your dental routine?

Start Early

The ADA recommends that your child’s first dental visit should be within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than the child’s first birthday.

In other words, start early. Don’t wait for emergencies or figure they’re okay until school starts.

Healthy teeth and gums is a lifetime pursuit, very literally, and this first visit is really just about examining and checking growth and development, but even that can help them feel more comfortable coming to the office as they get older.

Be a Good Example

Your children notice the things you do, so make sure you always get to your own appointments.

If you have some dental anxiety yourself, try not to let it show. Of course, this may mean that you need to make separate appointments for yourself and your children, because sometimes, no matter how much you try to hide it, they may be able to sense those fears.

You should also avoid talking about your own war stories of growing up with dental problems. They don’t need to know that you had teeth pulled and a mouth full of silver. They just need to know that you have a great smile now.

Teach Them Why Brushing Alone Isn’t Enough

A lot of kids figure that if they’re brushing and flossing and not feeling any pain there must not be a need to visit the dentist.

You’re going to have to be the one to provide some family education. Everyone needs to know that decay isn’t always obvious, and they may be missing a spot and never know it until it’s too late. They need to know that there’s a difference between professional cleanings and at home cleanings.

Use These Visits Reinforce At-Home Dental Habits

Plan your appointments far in advance so you can make it more like an event that everyone needs to get ready for. If any of their good habits have slipped, this is a time to get back into brushing, flossing, rinsing, cutting down on sugary snacks, drinking more water, etc.Whatever it takes to get ready for the upcoming visit to the dentist’s office.

Talk about What to Expect

You don’t have to talk about pain and shots and drills to prepare your children for their visit. However, you can talk about the things they can expect at a normal checkup. This includes cleanings, x-rays, sealants, and other necessary treatments.

When they’re really young, we’ll watch for decay, but it’s mostly going to be so we can track development and make sure everything is okay. Let them know it’s not a major treatment, just a way to keep an eye any potential problems with teeth, gums, and oral tissues.

What about Rewards/Bribery?

Some experts say you shouldn’t offer your children a special treat for behaving well at the dental appointment. They say this only increases apprehension because if it really wasn’t so bad then you wouldn’t need to bribe them. It gets worse when the bribe is some kind of sugary snack, which creates a mixed message with everything they just heard from the dentist.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with building positive associations if you do it right. Maybe that night the whole family goes out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Maybe you all go and do some family shopping or some other activity together. This can build positive associations and give them something to look forward to.

Try some of these tips for yourself and see if it makes a change in how you and your family approach your next appointment.