Your child experiences many exciting milestones in life. A first word, a first step, and a first tooth are all exciting moments that they will never forget. One milestone that sometimes creates more anxiety than joy is a trip to the dentist. Luckily, this does not have to be the case.
There are many ways to alleviate dental anxiety in kids. Sometimes, you may even be able to generate excitement in them. Visiting the dentist may never be like a trip to Disneyland, but it doesn’t have to be frightening either.
Explain Why We See Dentists
Before your child’s first visit to the dentist, explain the importance of dental hygiene. Let them know that the dentist will look at their teeth to make sure they are healthy. Don’t bring up negative ideas, like what may happen if the child has a cavity. Instead, talk about why we need strong teeth and how a healthy mouth helps the rest of our body to be healthy as well.
Walk Them Through the Visit
Dental anxiety in kids is sometimes caused by not being prepared for that first encounter. Not knowing what lies ahead is stressful for everyone. That is never truer than with young children. Use a doll or a favorite stuffed toy to show your child how the dentist and dental hygienists examine teeth. Let your child be the dentist as well. Make it fun for them to keep their anxiety low.
Always Be Honest
Children have questions. They may want to know what happens if the dentist finds a problem. Be sincere in your response. Tell your child that sometimes teeth aren’t healthy and that’s why it is so important to visit the dentist. Explain that dentists are trained to fix problems if they happen. Likewise, encourage your child to ask questions of the dentist or dental hygienist.
Don’t Share Your Own Anxiety
Adults sometimes have their own dental anxieties. Do not let that interfere with your child’s ability to have a pleasant first visit to the dentist. Remind yourself that any fears of needles or dental tools are unwarranted. You need to be strong for your child, put on a brave face and smile your way through the visit.
Find a Great Dentist
A dentist who has experience working with children is worth their weight in gold. Children need patience, kindness, a gentle hand, and more patience. A nice smile and some kind words from the dentist can take a child’s worries away with ease. Conversely, a dentist who does not have the experience of working with children might seem gruff, which can be scary for young children in new situations.
Get a child started early visiting the dentist so that they become comfortable with the exam. Dentists will happily allow children in the chair as soon as they are able. Those early visits will be little more than counting teeth, but they can be very important for calming future anxieties.
Stay With Them
Dentists rarely have problems with parents joining their children in the exam rooms. In fact, most dentists ask parents to accompany their young ones. Remind your child that you will be with them every step of the way and that you will never leave their side. Offer to hold their hand during the exam or even sit with them, if you are able. You can also let your child bring a favorite toy or blanket to make the visit even more comforting.
Offer a Reward
A healthy mouth should be its own reward, but that simply isn’t the case for a young child. Most dentists offer stickers or toys to children after an exam, but you can go one step further. Give your child a present for successfully getting through their first dental appointment. Take them out for a special treat or spend the afternoon playing games together. The anticipation of a reward can get many children through even the worst anxieties.