Mommy and Daddy, I’m Scared! How to Ease Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist
1. Start young -The earlier a child visits the dentist, the better. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests the first visit starts at age 1 or when the first tooth is visible.
2. Keep it simple – When preparing for a visit, especially the first time, try not to include too many details. Doing so will raise more questions and adding more information about an extra treatment like a filling he might need may cause unnecessary anxiety.
3. Use positive phrases – Words like “clean, strong, healthy teeth” can make the visit seem fun and good rather than scary and alarming. Avoid words like pain, hurt or shot in all circumstances.
4. Consider a pretend visit – Play dentist at home to get your child acquainted with what to expect at an appointment. Let your child role play as dentist with a stuffed animal or read with them about going to the dentist in books such as Spongebob Squarepants’ Behold No Cavities! A Visit to the Dentist or Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist.
5. Do not try to relate – Some parents take their children with them to their own dentist appointment, but experts say this is a mistake. Adult dental offices are filled with drilling sounds and can have a cold and sterile atmosphere. At Medplex Pediatric Dentistry, we aim to provide a fun environment, so kids feel comfortable in a place that speaks to them. A pediatric dental office won’t look or sound like a child’s, so try to keep them from attending your appointment to avoid adding extra concern.
6. Prepare for some fussing – Let the professional hygienists at Medplex and Dr. Chambliss guide the situation based on our experience because with years of practice, we’ve figured out the best ways to manage stress in your child with you as our partner in the process; we may bring Sister and Sugar in for a visit or ask you to hold your little one’s hand, which will provide comfort and prevent him/her from grabbing any dental instruments.
7. Stay away from treat bribery – Don’t offer special treats for making it through a dental appointment. This could instill unnecessary fear in your child regarding why they would need a treat to come in for an office visit. Plus, treats are usually filled with sugar and we are working with your child to understand healthy oral hygiene habits.
8. Emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene – teach your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice and that the dentist will take care of his/her teeth so that they are strong enough for him/her to eat. You might also explain that the dentist helps keep cavities at bay and ensures that patients will have a beautiful smile for years to come.
Adapted from Parent’s Magazine. Learn more at https://www.parents.com/health/dental/kids-overcome-fear-dentists/