Getting your teeth cleaned is an essential rite of passage, but some children experience fear of the dentist. In fact, more than 60 percent of respondents to a recent survey said that they were afraid of the dentist. Read on for ways to have a successful dental visit!
Once tiny teeth start appearing in your child’s mouth it’s time to start thinking about a first visit to the dentist.
While some kids are afraid of the dentist, others may look forward to a visit – if they are prepared. Dental care is important. With some planning, you can help your child avoid getting a case of Dentophobia. If your child already has a fear of the dentist, there are some steps parents can take to help ease anxiety and fear. Parents must look after their child’s oral health and help them overcome any fears that may prevent them from being a good dental patient.
Since sedation is not recommended even for especially fearful children, we have some less-invasive ways to ease dental phobias and fears.
1. Seek a Pediatric Dentist for Dental Care
Even if you have a dentist who you love who gives you a beautiful smile, it’s still a good idea to look for a kids’ dentist. Dentists trained in pediatric dentistry are well versed in issues that can arise with baby teeth. They can also identify issues specific to kids’ oral health. But, kids’ dentists are also used to dealing with kids who have a dentist phobia or who may not want them to examine their teeth. Additionally, pediatric dentists will have dentistry tools that are smaller for little mouths and teeth. This will make a trip to the dentist less scary and painful.
2. Make a Dental Visit Fun
Can a trip to the dentist really be fun? The actual check-up may not be the best time your child has ever had, but if you chose a dental practice with a nice staff and bright décor, a trip to the dentist could be something your child doesn’t fear. Many dentists also give a small age-appropriate prize at the end of a successful dental exam. This can help get your child excited. Find out if your dentist gives prizes ahead of time. If so, let your child know what awaits them at the end. If not, consider giving them a small prize yourself. Try to ensure your child is in a good mood walking into the office. Listen to fun music and sing along in the car on the way to the office or tell jokes.
3. Prepare Your Child for Their Dental Appointment
Whether it is your child’s first dental appointment or their tenth, letting your child know what to expect can help ease their fear. Find out ahead of time whether your child will need dental x-rays, dental sealants, or any other dental services. Walk your child through every step of a dental exam. This includes having teeth cleaned by a dental assistant to having the family dentist check for cavities.
4. Control Your Own Dental Anxiety
Parents are people, which means that parents are sometimes afraid of the dentist too. It’s perfectly normal not to love the dentist yourself. But, modeling good practices by taking care of your own dental needs both at home and visiting the dentist yourself will go a long way. If you are afraid of the dentist it’s okay to be open with your child. Instead of trying to hide your fear share how you overcome your fear of the dentist with your child. Do you handle your dental fear by taking deep breaths? Do you tackle your phobia by imagining you are on a beach instead of in a dentist’s chair? When you get home from your dentist appointment, share how your dental experience was with your child. This is especially important if you were a brave patient who realized that your fear and anxiety were overblown.
5. Distract Your Child to Reduce Fear of the Dentist
Some dental offices have televisions mounted on the ceiling to distract children from their fear of the dentist. Even if your child’s dental office is not so high-tech, it’s still possible to distract your child from dentistry that can be scary. Many dental offices that focus on kids will be understanding. Many pediatric dentists’ offices will allow your child to hold onto a lovey during dental exams. This can help them cope with dental fear and anxiety. Even this small comfort can help. Many pediatric dentists will also allow children to watch a video on a cell phone or tablet as long as it does not interfere with the dental cleaning or exam. Bringing headphones so your child can listen to music is a great way to drown out scary sounds.
6. Explain Why We Visit the Dentist to Alleviate Fear
Even very young children understand that it’s important to have a healthy smile! Explain to your child that we visit the dentist to make sure we have a pretty smile, clean teeth, and no cavities. Also, tell your child early on that routine dental treatment is a part of life. This is no different than going to the doctor to stay healthy. Once a child knows why they are getting certain dental treatments, dental visits may not be as scary.
7. Don’t Arrive at the Dental Office Too Early
If your child has dental phobia don’t arrive at the office too early. This will only allow time for your child’s fear to grow. If you arrive just a few minutes before your appointment begins, your child’s dental anxiety won’t have too much time to fester. Be upbeat and play a game like “I spy” in the waiting room to take your child’s mind off of their dental exam and to ease anxiety.
8. Ask the Dentist to Explain
Pediatric dentistry is scary to young patients! Ask the dentist to explain what they are doing each step of the way. Even brief explanations about dental procedures as they are happening can go a long way towards easing anxiety and fear. Some pediatric dentists will allow children to examine dental tools before their exam. Dentists may even ask children to be their helper and allow them to hand over dental tools.
9. Use Hand Signals to Reduce Fear of the Dentist
Some kids may have anxiety about visiting the dentist because they can’t speak with dental instruments in their mouth. Help ease some anxiety by coming up with hand signals. Come up with signals your child can use if they need to say something or just need a break. This can be as simple as raising a leg or a few fingers. Knowing they have a way to communicate may be all some little patients need to let go of their dental fears and phobias.
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