Many adults do not enjoy going to the dentist, and sometimes children can feel the same way. We know that regular dental checkups are essential to maintain our oral hygiene and overall health. But for a child, the sounds and unfamiliar environment can be scary.
Here are some ways you can help your child overcome their fear of the dentist.
Start the dental visits young
Make dentist visits part of your child’s routine as early as you can – the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child to the dentist by their first birthday. With early visits, your child will have time to get used to their dentist, as well as the general environment of the dentist’s office. The dentist can slowly introduce the usage of dental instruments to prevent your child getting overwhelmed. The dentist will also be able to advise on dental issues specific to your child, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use.
Read books about the dentist
No matter your child’s age, there are many books available that will help them learn about the dentist. The colorful pictures and positive stories will inform your child about what happens at the dentist’s office, while allaying any anxieties they might have. Some children’s books about the dentist are Peppa Pig’s Dentist Trip, The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, and Just Going to the Dentist.
Model calm behavior
According to a study by the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid, parents pass on a fear of the dentist to their children. No matter your own feelings about going to the dentist, it’s important to show your child that it’s not scary. Avoid talking about the dentist in a negative way, avoiding words like “drill,” “needle,” or “pain.” Maintain calm and relaxed composure once you’re there. This will show your child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Have an open conversation with your child
When you explain the importance of oral health to your child, they can begin to understand why going to the dentist is a good thing. If your child has questions about the dentist, tailor your answers in an age-appropriate way. You can also ask your pediatric dentist about how they recommend you answer your child’s questions.
Be patient and compassionate
Sometimes, despite the best preparation, your child may still whine, cry, or squirm while in the dentist’s chair. This can feel frustrating, but try to stay positive and patient. Your child’s dentist is used to working with children and will likely have strategies to help calm your child down. Try to remain calm yourself, to show your child that everything is okay.
Going to the dentist regularly is an important part of oral health, and oral health is an important part of our overall health. It can be a scary and unfamiliar environment for children, but with these tips, you can help your child soothe their fear of the dentist.