Have you ever felt embarrassed about your oral habits or smile? Or have you ever felt afraid of the dentist? Unfortunately for a large group of Americans, feeling guilt, shame, or fear when thinking about oral health is surprisingly common. This is because many parents and even some dentists use negative reinforcements when teaching kids about oral habits. At All Pro Dental, we strive to provide a dental experience that is judgment-free and that positively reinforces good habits while not shaming
Many adults still carry negative feelings towards oral health. What we experience as children can stay with us for decades. If you felt judged by your parents, dentist, or siblings because you had a cavity, this could create an antagonistic relationship between you and your oral health. Additionally, if you had any painful experiences as kid this can also cause issues. It was very commonplace to use “negative reinforcement” to encourage children to maintain good habits, whether that includes oral health, practicing an instrument, or doing homework. The issue is that in the short-term it can make your child feel embarrassed or angry when they are unable to meet expectations, and in the long-term, it can create resentment. Many adults are still afraid of the dentist or don’t make dental appointments because they are worried that they will be “judged” for not having perfect oral health.
Part of this judgment is rooted in the fact that the relationship between brushing and flossing and oral health is often misrepresented. First, it is important to understand that every dentist has forgotten to brush at some point in your life. Second, there are more factors at play in tooth decay than just brushing and flossing. Your diet can greatly impact your oral health and in some cases risks of cavities are affected by genetics or even the geometry of your teeth. It is unfair to a child to say that they have cavities because they don’t brush perfectly when there are other factors in play.
Dentists should be non-judgemental when teaching children about oral habits and giving advice. A filling should not be treated as a “punishment” for not brushing and flossing but as what it is: a procedure to prevent the spread of dental decay. While it is important for children to know that brushing and flossing is a great way to decrease the risk of cavities, it is also important for them to understand that it’s ok to make mistakes. Children should be encouraged with positive reinforcement tools like stickers or other rewards for whenever they brush their teeth every day for a month. Rewarding good behavior has a better impact on children than discouraging them or blaming them for a cavity.
All Pro Dental is a family dentist in Revere Massachusetts that provides dental services for patients of all ages. We pride ourselves on creating a comforting environment and partnering with our patients to help them improve their dental habits. If you would like to make an appointment for your family, please give us a call.