5 Ways to Help Your Child Love the Dentist
Dental appointments are known to cause fear or even anxiety in many people. Although dental appointments can make patients nervous of all ages, for children, fear of the dentist is especially common. Even a routine cleaning can make them anxious enough to cry or throw a tantrum, because many kids associate medical offices with getting shots, or are wary of something that will “hurt” them.
There are a few things that can help them have positive first experiences with the dentist, to lay the foundation for how children respond to visits in the future. Here are just a few ways you can help your child love going to the dentist.
- Start Them Young
Find a dentist that you plan on taking your child to for the foreseeable future, and make sure to introduce them to their dentist early on. This introduction ideally takes place before any actual appointment takes place. This humanizes the dentist and allows them/you to explain to the child the concepts of oral health and why it is crucial.
If they’ve had a cleaning before, remind them that they just had their teeth brushed and checked and that it’s easy if you sit still. Remind them about what they enjoyed from their visit, like the toys in the waiting room, or the prize at the end. Keep it honest while highlighting the positive!
- Talk About It
Prepare your child for what’s to come by talking openly about it, to help them understand that there’s nothing to fear. As your child grows older and can better express how they feel, it’s also a great opportunity to talk through their fears without shaming them. Instead, help them understand the process and alleviate their concerns.
Dental exams serve a similar purpose in children as they do in adults. Mainly preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral health issues. You can help your child appreciate the importance of these visits by giving them real-life examples of the benefits of good dental health and a bright, healthy smile, such as keeping your breath smelling good, reducing cavities and preventing damage.
- Be An Example
Let your little one know that everyone needs to go to the dentist to keep their teeth healthy. Make sure to maintain a positive tone with your word choice. Make sure to help your child understand that their friend (the dentist) is going to clean their teeth with a “special toothbrush”. Avoid negative words like “pain” or “hurt”, and focus on the positive. Sometimes, a simple conversation is all it takes to help your child feel more comfortable about something that seems unfamiliar and nerve-wracking. If you have a positive attitude, it will help them develop a positive attitude towards the experience and give them a better understanding of why they need to go to the dentist.
Schedule your own regular cleanings, and (if possible) bring your child with you to your appointment to show them how easy it is. Most anxiety stems from fear of the unknown. Having regular cleanings can help children feel comfortable with the process of dental visits. To set the best example, show them how much you value a healthy smile and make the process something you can do together. For example, pick out fun toothbrushes or make time to brush your teeth together.
- Practice Ahead Of Time
Before their first cleaning/checkup, stage a “pretend” dentist visit with your child. Explain to them what the dentist will do and why, and be sure to make it fun! This will help them develop positive thoughts and feelings towards the experience, and give them a better understanding of why they have to go to the dentist.
You can even introduce your child to the dentist and meet the team ahead of time. If this is your child’s first visit, be sure to introduce them to the dentist and office staff with enthusiasm. Being more familiar with our dental practices and the people doing them should alleviate some anxiety. It gives your family a chance to tour our facility, meet our team members, and ask any questions you might have. Your child might even see other little patients just like themselves getting their teeth cleaned.
- Make Visits Fun
Stuffed animals can bring a ton of comfort and reassurance to your child. They’re familiar, soft, and remind them of home. They’re perfect for bringing for their visit to the dentist. We love making our office an enjoyable place that your little ones can feel comfortable in.
Besides bringing favorite toys, children love something to look forward to, especially when it’s fun! To help ramp up excitement around their upcoming visit, why not plan something special to do either before or after the appointment? For instance, a trip to the playground could be in order before their visit begins. This can help them release any wiggles and relax before they sit in the dentist’s chair. Or, you might promise a treat afterward!
Our team at Shemen Dental understands that it takes special knowledge and care to take care of little ones and to make sure that they start out on the right track with their oral health. If you’re in the Amarillo, TX area, give us a call to schedule your child’s visit, we’d love to introduce ourselves!