Taking your children to the dentist regularly is a vital and important parental responsibility. Not only will this ensure that your child has clean, healthy teeth, it will also instill excellent oral hygiene habits. Early frequent dental check-ups can also help kids to benefit from far better dental health as adults. However, from the perspective of a child, a dental appointment can be pretty frightening. Some children even go on to develop a very real fear of the dentist that can make it difficult to get them to receive even a basic dental exam.
As a parent, you want your kids to be the healthiest possible in every aspect including their oral health. Ensuring that your child is happy, or at least indifferent, about visiting the dentist will help to achieve this. Here are our top tips to ease your child’s dental fear and make their check-ups a stress-free experience.
One of the most important things that you can do as a parent of a child who is scared of visiting the dentist, is to take the time to understand their fear. This is especially important if you haven’t experienced dental fear yourself. Put yourself in your child’s shoes – unfamiliar sounds, smells, and noises can be worrisome, never mind having to keep your mouth wide open and having strange instruments poked into it. By showing your child that you understand their concerns and that you aren’t demeaning them in any way, you will be able to rationalize with them (if they are old enough).
Obviously, there is no need to take your child to the dentist before they have any teeth, but the younger you can get them used to visiting your dentist’s office, the environment, and the basic process of having their teeth checked, the more likely they are to be able to tolerate it as they get older. So, as soon as their first teeth come through, make that appointment.
Okay, this can be hard to do if your kid is at an age where they have endless questions, but if you can, keep details about what your child can expect from their dental appointment to a minimum. Young people have a natural tendency to overthink, particularly if they are experiencing something new, which can lead to them developing all sorts of made-up scenarios in their head that may be causing them to worry unnecessarily. Adding too much information can also raise more questions. Keep a positive attitude and if you are unsure about how to answer something, rather than make promises that you may not be able to keep (‘everything will be fine and you won’t need any work done’), be honest and say you don’t know and deflect their attention onto something else.
Since children learn by example, one of the best ways of easing your child’s fear of the dentist, is to be a positive role model. Schedule a double appointment so that you and your child can undergo your dental check-ups at the same time. When you arrive, offer to go first so that you can show as well as tell your child that there is no reason to be anxious or fearful. How you react at your dental appointment will reassure your child and make them far more likely to emulate your behavior.
By far one of the easiest ways to ease your child’s dental fear is to choose a great family dentist who can help them feel at ease. Most family dentists are experienced in dealing with young patients who have worries about undergoing even a simple dental exam which makes them more likely to be tuned into the needs of children and the things that induce fear. As a result, they have a greater ability to coax kids into a sense of calm safety that makes it possible for them to tolerate a dental check-up and any treatment that may be needed.
If you are concerned that your child has dental fear and you would like more advice about the best way to overcome this, our experienced family dentistry team would be happy to help. Please call our offices to speak to us and let us help you to ease your child’s fear of the dentist.