We’ve all been there. You have ten minutes to get to your dentist’s appointment, but your kid is having a meltdown. Toys are being thrown, tears are being shed, and the both of you are at your wit’s end.
As it turns out, being afraid of the dentist is a common problem in adults and children alike. It often stems from the anticipation of pain, feeling of helplessness, or a negative experience in the past. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to ease your child’s fear of the dentist before it amounts to a debilitating phobia that could even affect his or her health.
Is your child nervous about going to the dentist?
Pediatric dentists emphasize that the key to healthy teeth and gums is taking care of them as early as possible. Waiting too long to make your child’s first appointment increases their risk of dealing with plaque buildup or cavities. Experts in pediatric dentistry recommend that the best time to start taking your child see the dentist as early as their first birthday. But, of course, the second-best time to start is right now.
If you have not taken your kids to see the dentist yet, they might be nervous about their first visit. Here’s how you can help your young kids overcome their fear of seeing the dentist, and ensure that they grow up to have beautiful teeth!
1. Take A Tour Of The Dentist’s Office
Pediatric dentists go to great lengths to make sure that all patients are comfortable in their office. Reach out to your dentists and ask them if they can give your children a fun tour of the office – your little ones will be much more at ease when the time comes for an appointment.
Introduce your child to the pediatric dentist and staff. Getting to know the nurses and understanding the tools they use will make a huge difference in your child’s attitude when they make their first visit. Chances are your child will treat like an adventure and there will be some fun games in the waiting room to try out.
2. Act Like Its No Big Deal
When you’re a parent, it’s easy to worry about their first visit at the dentist. It’s important to be aware of the effect that your words might have on their behavior. Your children take cues from you – if they sense that you are anxious, they will be anxious as well.
3. Play Dentist At Home
Playing “pretend” dentist at home with your child can help them think of dental visits as a fun experience. By taking turns role-playing as the dentist and the patient, your little one will feel like they understand what happens during the actual visit. You could look at each other’s teeth through a mirror, and try counting how many there are. Playing this game with your child will allow them to become familiar with the feeling of a dental exam.
4. Use Comforting Vocabulary
As a parent taking your kids to their first dentist appointment, it is important to steer clear of negative words and opt for more friendly words instead. Instead of saying “x-rays”, say “pictures of your teeth”. When explaining what a teeth cleaning is, say something along the lines of “washing off the sugar bugs”.
Most importantly, avoid saying words like “yank”, “pull”, or “extract”. Those words would sound scary, even to adults. Instead, say “wiggle your teeth” when referring to teeth removal. If you’re not sure how to articulate yourself, check out these children’s books about going to the dentist that illustrate how easy and fun the experience is.
5. Avoid Bribes Or Empty Promises
While it may sound like a good idea to offer your child a reward for going to the dentist, this can be counterproductive. Offering bribes or rewards for good behavior at the dentist only reinforces the idea that visits are supposed to be bad or scary. You should definitely not be rewarding your child with candy or soda – that just causes confusion when the dentist reminds your son or daughter that those foods should be avoided.
Dr. Nanna, a pediatric dentist in Alpharetta, recommends giving words of encouragement and moral support instead. Compliment your child on their shiny teeth or fresh breath. Comment on how great they get along with the dentist or mention how mature they are during the procedure.
6. Find A Pediatric Dentist
Choosing a pediatric dentist could make a huge difference in your child’s experience at his or her first dental visit. Most parents take their children to their family dentists, who often have a relationship with the whole family and an understanding of the family history. However, pediatric dentists are trained to handle oral health problems that are specific to children. You will often find that pediatric dentists are able to comfort your child and have fun with them, making their first visit an enjoyable one.
A pediatric dentist is trained for at least two years to work specifically with infants, children, teens, and kids with disabilities, so they know how to handle any situation. They also have dental equipment that is smaller and more suitable for children. And these are just a few of the reasons why pediatric dentistry is a great option for kids!
Your child’s smile is precious. Establishing good dental habits is a must if you want to ensure that their smile is healthy and happy for many years. At New Generation Dentistry, our team of dentists in Mission Viejo can take care of your whole family’s teeth. Dr. Sara, our pediatric dentist, can help your child establish good dental care habits. For more information, call our dental office in Mission Viejo or book an appointment today!
Updated for 2018.