Everyone is scared of something. It’s totally normal…. but many children have one fear in common. Yes, that is going to the dentist. It is pretty easy to understand why they don’t exactly look forward to those semi-annual visits. There is something about a stranger poking around in your mouth that just isn’t fun. Does your child have this fear? Do they act out the day before a scheduled appointment? How about crying, having difficulty sleeping, or showing signs of anxiety? This is something that many parents are forced to deal with. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to help your child overcome their fear of the dentist.
“To start with, it is important that your child begins seeing the dentist from an early age” says Jonathan Everett, DDS of Kirkland Family Dentistry.
This will help them feel more comfortable and get used to the process. Most professionals agree that the first dental appointment should be around the age of one. Even if they have been to the dentist from an early age, though, children can still be scared. So, it is best to keep the details about the visit to a minimum. When you tell them about an upcoming dental appointment, keep your tone calm and unconcerned. Tell them why they’re going (for example, a check up or to show off their smile) and move on. You don’t want to wind up scaring your child by mentioning words like, drill, pain, shot, or anything else that may cause worry.
Another way to help them overcome their fear? Avoid telling your child about your own dental visits. Also, don’t take them along to one of your own. That may cause them to panic. If you mention that you’ve had a cavity filled, they will immediately start to think about whether they too will need to have a cavity filled! Plus, the image of their beloved parent sitting back in a dental chair won’t likely make them feel calm or at ease. Instead, focus your energy on positive words like, clean, healthy, and strong. That way, they can start to think about the dentist as a good place.
Never reward your child for a good dental visit. Telling them that they will get candy, a trip to the arcade, or any other type of reward can put a lot of pressure on them! Also, by saying, “If you don’t cry, I will give you a treat,” you are only making them wonder why they might want to cry. By trying to avoid a problem during the appointment, you may actually be making their fear worse. So, instead of a treat, tell your child how well behaved they were following the appointment. That positive reinforcement will do more than a lollipop or sticker ever would.
It can also be helpful to take your child to a pediatric dentist rather than your normal family dentist. Typically, their offices are a little more child friendly. They’ve got bright colours, fun toys to play with, and even spaceship chairs to sit in. Plus, the entire staff has experience dealing with difficult, scared, or nervous children. They know how to speak to them, keep their minds occupied, and make the experience a positive one. It is certainly something to consider! Something as simple as a change of scenery can make a big difference in the way your child sees the dentist.
If your child is afraid of the dentist, you don’t have to brace yourself for a full-blown meltdown every time you book an appointment. A few changes will help your child put their fear far behind them…. with your help, of course!
Sean Shen understands the importance of regular dental visits. He has worked with many different patients over the years, practicing both pediatric and Family Dentistry. It is his extensive knowledge that allows him to understand the needs of his patients.