People of all ages can experience a certain amount of anxiety about visiting the dentist, but it can be particularly difficult for children. We all know how important it is to bring your child into the dentist for regular exams and cleanings, but if he or she is frightened of the dentist, those trips can be difficult for everyone involved. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help your children overcome their fear of the dentist.
The first thing you can do is to plan ahead and take your child into the dentist early. In fact the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents take their children in at about age 1 or as soon as the first tooth erupts. If your child has early, positive experiences in the dentist chair, he or she won’t have anxiety about it in later years.
When talking to your child about an upcoming dental appointment, be totally honest about what he or she can expect. If you “sugar coat” your description, your child may not trust what you say the next time around, and that can create even more anxiety. Of course, you should take care not to scare your child either. If you go into too much detail – like describing getting a shot in the mouth, for example – it will only make things worse. Simply provide some basic information about what you think will happen at the dentist office, and treat the situation in a very nonchalant manner. If you aren’t stressed about it, that will help to make your child calmer as well.
One way to alleviate your child’s fear is to act out the trip to the dentist with your child beforehand. Make it a fun game of “pretend” that your child enjoys. Most children will be more comfortable if they have some idea of what to expect before the actual visit, and playing pretend is a great way to do just that. Children’s books are another excellent way of teaching your child about trips to the dentist. There are plenty of books designed to ease children’s fear about dental visits.
Teach your child how important it is to have healthy teeth and gums, and that going to the dentist is a necessary part of life for all of us. You might want to describe what a cavity is (in very basic terms) and how going to the dentist can help prevent cavities. Once again, children’s books are an excellent tool to help you educate your child with regard to good oral health.
Once you and your child are at the dentist, it’s entirely normal for your child to act out to a certain degree. Fortunately, family dentists are very accustomed to dealing with young children, so the best course of action is to simply let the professionals do their job and follow their instructions when it comes to your level of involvement.