Visiting the dentist regularly is crucial for an overall healthy lifestyle. But for some children, these routine appointments come with a lot of dental fear. It doesn’t matter whether it is their first visit or if they’ve been seeing the same dentist for years – this anxiety can make just showing up a challenge.
By taking steps now to calm your child’s dental fears, you are opening the door to lifelong oral health. Here are a few strategies you can try.
Understanding the Dentist’s Role
Depending on their age, sometimes a good conversation about the dentist can be all that is needed. Take time to discuss with your child the role of the dentist, why they are important (they are the experts), and how visits to the dentist can be beneficial today and in the future. Discuss how brushing and flossing daily are important for dental health, but that they aren’t the only methods used to ensure proper care for teeth. Routine cleanings and care from a dentist are also very important.
Explain What a Dental Visit is Like
If your child has never been to the dentist or is having a new procedure done, such as a filling for a cavity, sometimes the dental fear can stem from not knowing what to expect. Take the time to explain what a visit is like. Sometimes using YouTube videos of their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes going to the dentist can help.
Lead By Example
One of the advantages of going to a family dentist rather than one who only practices pediatric dentistry is that you and others in the family can lead by example – with the same dental team, the same office, the same surroundings, etc. Your nervous child can attend your dental appointments as well as those of their siblings and be able to see that there is nothing to worry about. Setting the example in this way can help relax nerves.
Avoid Negative Words – And Expressing Your Own Fears
When you are trying to help your child overcome dental fear, you need to avoid using any words that can be viewed negatively as well as keep your own dental fears quiet. Hearing words like pain, hurt, shot, pinch, scraping, drilling, and so on can be scary – especially when a small child is envisioning these things taking place in their mouth at the dentist. Avoid them. Also, keep any negative dental experiences you have had to yourself – or your adult friends. Do not share them with your children.
Instead, share that the dentist will use dental tools to help care for teeth and that they will explain what each tool does so that there are no surprises.
Talk To the Dentist
Dentists who work in pediatrics know how to talk and handle kids when it comes to dental work. They are trained and experienced in knowing what to say and how to handle those with dental fears. If your little one is struggling, give the dental team a heads up. They will do what they do best to keep your child comfortable and remove the high level of anxiety.