It’s normal for children to be nervous or scared of new experiences. It can be intimidating for a stranger to put unfamiliar equipment in their mouth. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Some people carry this fear into adulthood. That’s why facing the issue head-on as early as possible is a great way to prevent any complications later on.
Here are some great tips that will help your kids get over their fear of visiting the dentist.
Take Your Child to a Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists are dentists just for kids! They are the pediatricians of dentistry. They have two to three years of specialty training following dental school where they focus on treating only children and adolescents. Pediatric dentists have a more unique and thorough understanding of children and their dental needs.
Start Visiting the Dentist Early and Regularly
Taking your kids to the dentist early on is crucial. This helps them become familiar with the dentist and the surroundings. Going to the dentist’s office needs to be seen as something everyone does. Research shows that the most efficient way to deal with fear is exposure. Regular visits to the dentist from an early age can make a huge difference.
We offer “Baby & Me” appointments for children under 2 years of age. During your child’s first dental visit, Dr. Kailes, Dr. Staman or Dr. Johnston will perform a knee-to-knee examination to check your child’s teeth for proper eruption and decay. We’ll discuss proper oral care, diet and habits that can influence your child’s dental health and overall well being. This first visit is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about your child’s oral health and needs.
Here at Pediatric Dentistry, parents are always allowed in the back. During new patient exams, we encourage parents to get involved by learning about how their child can prevent decay with proper home care and diet.
Read Books and Watch Videos
Reading a book with your child is a great way to prepare them for a visit to the dentist. Here are a few of our favorites:
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain
- The Crocodile & the Dentist, by Taro Gomi
- Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist, by Christine Ricci, Robert Roper
- Just Going to the Dentist, by Mercer Mayer
- Going to the Dentist, Anne Civardi, Michelle Bates, Stephen Cartwright
- What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist, Heidi Murkoff
- Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig), by Scholastic
Videos are another great way to help ease your child’s anxiety about going to the dentist. Our video library has several videos you can watch with your child to help them get familiar with our doctors, team, and office. This is a great video to watch with them that explains what will happen during their visit.
We also have some fun activity sheets and coloring pages to help your child learn about pediatric dental health.
Focus on Yourself
Even if you might have some of your own anxiety about the dentist or the appointment, show that you are excited and are looking forward to the visit. Pay attention to the language you use as well. You want your kids to see the dentist as someone they can trust. Talk positively about what will happen. Keep it simple and make sure you don’t include too many details, which might increase their anxiety and raise more questions. Talk about how we go to the doctor for checkups for our bodies and how our teeth need checkups too.
Tap into Their Imagination
Pretend play is a great way to get your kids used to the dentist. Use stuffed animals and take turns pretending to be a dentist. Let them role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll. Or better yet, you be the patient and let them brush your teeth. This helps kids understand what they can expect at the dentist in a fun, playful way.
Reward Your Child
Rewarding your children after doing something they’re anxious about is also helpful. After a successful appointment, reward your kids with a small toy or an activity they enjoy. Offering a reward helps them associate the idea of visiting the dentist with a positive experience, making future visits a lot less stressful.
While some people can get over their anxiety on their own, you shouldn’t automatically assume your child is capable of doing it. There can be multiple reasons why your child might be anxious in the first place. Dealing with this as early as possible by using these tips will ensure your kids understand the importance of oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.
If your child still seems nervous and afraid, bring them to our office before your appointment to meet our staff and check out our waiting room. This will give them an opportunity to meet us and become comfortable with the way our office looks, smells and sounds.
Do you have any tips about easing your child’s fear of the dentist you’d like to share with us? Head on over to our Facebook Page and let us know!