Many kids are afraid of going to the dentist. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown, or perhaps a previous bad experience, the anxiety can make the experience uncomfortable for everyone involved. However, most of these fears are unfounded, and there are steps you can take to help your child overcome a fear of the dentist and ensure their next visit goes as smoothly as possible.
1). Begin Good Oral Hygiene Early at Home – From the time they are infants, you should begin cleaning your child’s mouth and gums. Then as toddlers you can teach them to brush properly and consistently. They’ll get used to the idea of cleaning their mouth and learn that good dental habits are important.
2). Schedule First Dental Exam Early — The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children visit the dentist when they get their first tooth or by age one. The dentist will do a short exam and answer any questions, and most importantly it gets the child used to it so the dentist won’t seem so strange or scary down the line.
3). See a Pediatric Dentist – Pediatric dentists specialize in working with kids, so they know what to look for and are used to childhood anxiety. They’re experts at dealing with it, and will be as patient and gentle as possible. Also, many pediatric dentists have offices to make the visit fun including games, toys, prizes or even video games while they wait.
4). Prepare Beforehand – It often helps to talk about the visit beforehand – but remember to stay positive. It may help to read a book together (most local libraries have several children’s books on the topic). You can also role play, and let them practice on the “patient,” which can be a doll, stuffed animal, Buzz Lightyear or even you! Listen to your child and don’t dismiss their fears, but remain upbeat and use positive terms such as healthy teeth, happy smile, etc. Avoid scary sounding terms such as pain, hurt, shot or drill.
5). Set A Good Example – Children often follow their parent’s lead, so if you have fears or avoid the dentist that can easily rub off on them. However, if they see you placing a high importance on taking care of your teeth and talking positively about the dentist they’ll realize it’s not so scary after all.
6). Make Them Comfortable During the Visit – If your child has a favorite book or stuffed animal it doesn’t hurt to bring it along for comfort. Or if your son really wants to wear his Spiderman pajamas, why not let him? I promise the dentist doesn’t care (at least ours doesn’t 🙂 – anything to help the child feel safe and familiar.
Remember that regular exams are important, and with time and patience children can learn to overcome their fears. Come see us soon and continue having a great summer!