February 17, 2021
It’s no surprise that a trip to the dentist may make your child a bit anxious. Many parents say their child is “terrified” of the dentist; others say their child won’t open their mouth at the dentist, and some even say their kids scream at the dentist! Surprisingly, these are all natural and predictable responses. Many children experience anxiety when it comes to meeting strangers, especially a stranger sticking instruments in their mouth!
So, what can you do to help ease your child’s fear of their dental appointments? Here are 4 tips to help change your child’s mind about their experience at the dentist:
1. Talk to your child about meeting the dentist beforehand.
Talking to your child before his or her dental appointment allows your child time to prepare for their upcoming visit. Show your child that their dentist is a friendly person who wants to help their smile! To help our new patients with this process, we encourage each parent to visit our “Office Tour” page on our website. The page not only shows pictures of our office, but also has a short children’s story book about a child’s first visit to our practice. We also encourage you to visit our “Meet the Team” page, so your child can see pictures of his or her dentist before their appointment.
2. Create positive reinforcement for your child.
If your child isn’t a fan of their dental appointments, give him or her some positive reinforcement after their appointment. Help your child associate a positive reward with their trips to the dentist. Consider taking them to the playground after their appointment, or reward them with a movie. Show them that going to the dentist means something positive is coming! As your child grows older and realizes that the dentist isn’t so bad, these rewards won’t be necessary (of course).
3. Choose positive, less daunting words around your child.
The words you use around your child can strongly affect the way he or she perceives a situation. If you choose words like “pain”, “drill”, “shot”, or similarly intimidating words, your child is likely to feel scared of his or her dentist appointments. Tell your child that the dentist is simply counting your child’s teeth, not examining them. Your child’s dentist is cleaning the sugar off their teeth. Choose positive words that your child can relate to, so they can understand that this will be a positive, fun, pain-free experience.
4. Explain to your child why a dentist visit is important.
Possibly the most effective way to ease someone’s anxieties or fears, regardless of their age, is through education. Educate your child (using positive terms) on why they need to visit their dentist. Show them pictures of what a brilliant, healthy smile looks like with a full mouth of adult teeth. Show them their own teeth in the mirror and praise them for their cleaning habits. Help your child understand the consequences if they don’t visit their dentist or brush their teeth regularly!
Preparing your child before his or her visit to the dentist can make all the difference in how they feel when they arrive at their appointment. Choose positive, calming words when describing the dentist and dental appointments. Consider a mock appointment in your own home, using a toothbrush to count each tooth. This shows your child that a dental checkup isn’t complicated and won’t hurt!
Remember, it’s completely normal that your child has some apprehension and worry about their dentist appointment, so be understanding with them.
As Kitsap’s preferred children’s dentist, we place significant emphasis on your child’s comfort throughout his or her appointment. We want you and your child to feel relaxed at every appointment!