It’s not unusual for children to have fear of the dentist and the idea of sitting still while someone works inside their mouth.
As you prepare your child for their first trip to the dentist, you're probably bracing yourself for a fight against anxiety, fear and maybe even resistance. After all, it’s not unusual for children to be apprehensive of dentists and the idea of sitting still while someone works inside their mouth.
According to Colgate’s Oral Care Center, a child’s anxiety often is derived from multiple contributing factors. Sometimes it is transferred from a parent’s own fear, other times it is due to a history of painful experiences or the sight and feel of dental instruments.
Regardless, dental care cannot be avoided. There are ways, however, you as a parent can help ease your child’s concerns so they may overcome their fear of the dentist. If you’re unsure how to go about supporting your child through the process, here are a few techniques to get started.
1. Begin at Home
Even before you take your child to an appointment, you can instill confidence and help them feel prepared. This can be accomplished by providing positive information that gives them a sense of what to expect; showing them on a stuffed animal or doll how the dentist will work on their teeth; playing pretend as the dentist and patient using a toothbrush and/or mirror as the only “instrument(s)”; familiarizing them with the sensation of having a toothbrush, toothpaste or floss in their mouth; showing them picture books that illustrate the process; and letting them discuss their feelings or anxiety with you.
2. Start at a Young Age
Even though primary teeth are just temporary and will begin falling out a few years after erupting, it’s still important to have them cared for by a pediatric dentist. Your child’s first appointment should take place around age 1, or when their first teeth start appearing. The initial visit will be comfortable and easy, more of an introduction to the dentist, his or her staff and the cleaning process. If your child is older and can express their negative thoughts, encourage them to talk about it with their dentist at this time.
3. Mind Your Behavior
Certain words you use or information you give may only serve to exacerbate your child’s fear. For instance, Parents.com advises avoiding words like “shot,” “hurt” or “pain.” Instead, tell your child that the dentist is "looking for ‘sugar bugs’ so he/she can clean them off their teeth” and use positive phrases like “clean, strong, healthy teeth.” Also, avoid attempts to relate to your child by sharing personal stories of past painful procedures or negative experiences. These likely will make your child feel more nervous. Remember, our staff is well-versed in how to discuss procedures with children and make them feel at ease.
Above all, you can help your child rest assured everything will be alright by taking them to a kid-friendly dentist that exemplifies credibility and professionalism; provides a comfortable, fun office environment; and offers gentle dental treatments that are well-suited for its young patients. To learn more about helping your child overcome their fear of the dentist or to schedule an appointment, contact us today!