Going to the dentist is one of those irrational fears that many of us share. You probably didn’t love going to the dentist as a child.
It’s especially scary going to the dentist for kids because they don’t know what to expect. But it doesn’t have to be scary anymore.
With today’s modern medicine, new technology, and regular care for oral hygiene a trip to the dentist can be a breeze.
The trick is convincing your child of that.
Here are some of the ways to help your child assuage their fears of visiting the dentist.
Model good behavior
Your child looks up to you and takes cues from your behavior. If you’re afraid of the dentist then your child will be.
It’s best to start modeling a relaxed and unafraid attitude toward the dentist from the time your children are small. If you’re not worried about it, they are unlikely to be worried about it.
You can begin showing your child how relaxed you are about the dentist by taking them along with you for a routine cleaning. When they see how calm you are throughout the procedure it will lessen their anxiety.
Show them that it doesn’t hurt. Explain to them what the dentist is doing and smile about the whole ordeal. Shining a light on the mystery of dental care will make it much less scary to go to the dentist for kids.
Another important way to model good behavior for your children is to establish a robust dental hygiene routine. Let your kids see you brush and floss daily. If you take your oral health seriously then your kids will sense it’s important and they will be more likely to think it’s important as well.
Encourage good oral health
If you are taking pains to care for your oral health, you should help your children do the same.
One of the worst things a parent can do is neglect to care for their child’s teeth simply because baby teeth fall out. Good oral hygiene begins at birth.
If you begin cleaning your baby’s gums well before they have their first tooth, then you are helping to form a good habit. Plus, early exposure to toothbrushes and oral care will help your children not be afraid or adverse to it.
Use your finger, a soft cloth or a toothbrush with soft bristles to clean your baby’s mouth after every feeding when they are little. Once they have teeth, start brushing them twice a day.
Teeth brushing can be a struggle and a hassle for some parents to enforce, but it doesn’t have to be! And remember, the battle for your kid’s oral health is worth it because your oral hygiene affects the health of your entire body.
These good habits will make going to the dentist just part of the routine for kids.
Go to the dentist early
Most dentists recommend that you take your child to the dentist when they get their first tooth or before their first birthday.
Some parents are shocked and surprised that children that young need to see the dentist, but oral health is no joke. And taking your child to the dentist when they are so young will help to reduce anxiety around the dentist for kids.
Early visits are simple but important. They allow your child to meet their dentist in a calm and relaxed environment. If you put off their first dentist visit and wait until your child needs more serious treatment, their first exposure to the dentist can be more traumatic.
At the first visit, your dentist will examine your child’s teeth for any signs of decay. They will also check your child’s bite, jaw, gums, and oral tissues. These first visits allow your dentist to establish care and helps your child become more comfortable with their dentist.
Read about it and practice it
Get books that talk about going to the dentist and read them with your child. Reading books that demystify the dentist experience is a great way to eliminate fears about the dentist for kids.
There are many great books about going to the dentist that feature kids favorite characters receiving dental care. Seeing the characters like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants visit the dentist will help your child feel at ease.
After you’ve read these fun books together, role-play the situations that happened in the books. Practicing going to the dentist will help prepare your child.
Have your child recline on a chair or couch and pretend to check their teeth. This will help them be more comfortable with that scenario.
Opening your mouth for someone to look in can feel like a very vulnerable experience. Practicing the movement first with a trusted parent will make it easier to do with the dentist.
Another way to practice visiting the dentist is to drop-in before your child’s appointment so they can meet the staff. If your child can visit the office before their appointment they will be able to get the lay of the land and feel less intimidated when it’s their appointment.
A simple treat or toy after the dentist can over time decrease anxiety about dental visits. There’s a reason most dentist offices have a treasure chest of sorts for children to pick a reward from!
If you’ve prepared your child with a regular oral health routine and you’ve read about and practiced visiting the dentist, then a reward after the visit should be the last effort needed to make it a positive experience for your child.
Sometimes it can be daunting to go to the dentist for kids. With some intentional preparation and care, your child’s fears can be lessened.
Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can even be fun! But only with good models and plenty of preparation.
At White Smiles Family Dental we love making little ones feel comfortable at the dentist! Please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have any questions about your child’s dental care.