You know that your kids need healthy teeth and good oral hygiene habits. But every time your child encounters a new, unfamiliar situation, he or she dissolves into hysterical tears and frightened sobs. How do you help your children have healthy teeth if they won’t go anywhere near the dentist?
Your dentist understands that some children feel frightened and overwhelmed when they visit for the first time. Below are seven tips to help you prepare your children for their first appointment. Nip dental fear in the bud and help your kids feel comfortable and safe in the dentist chair.
1. Visit When They’re Young
Did you know that your child should visit the dentist at 3 years old? You and your child should go in for a dental check-up and ensure that your child’s teeth and mouth are healthy and strong. Visiting early will also familiarize your child with the dental appointment process.
You may want to take a few pictures of your children’s dental visits so that you can show them what it was like when they’re a bit older and more apprehensive. If your children see pictures of themselves at the dentist, they may feel more confident about going again.
2. Keep It Simple
Before you go in for the appointment, talk with your child about what is likely to happen. Explain that you’ll be together the entire time, that your child will sit in a chair and open up his or her mouth, and that the dentist will brush his or her teeth and make sure they’re clean.
Some parents get so excited about explaining the process that they overwhelm their children with details. Your child doesn’t need to know everything that will happen, like the exact tools used-those details will only make the visit seem scarier. Unless your child is the type of person that needs details to feel comfortable, keep it simple.
3. Use the Right Words
While explaining what happens at the dentist, avoid words that may frighten your child. Words like “pain,” “hurt,” “scary,” and “shot” are sure to make your child feel more scared about the upcoming appointment.
Even if you are trying to reassure your child with a statement like, “It won’t hurt at all,” the word your child will focus on is “hurt.” Use neutral language that will soothe your child and help him or her feel secure and comfortable, not anxious and frightened.
4. Have a Pretend Visit
Your children may benefit from a pre-appointment visit. Pediatric dentists understand dental anxiety, and your dentist will be happy to have a staff member give you and your child a tour of the office. Your child will feel comfortable in a more familiar setting.
You should always let your pediatric dentist know before the appointment if your child is nervous about coming in. Your dentist can prepare a few special surprises for an anxious, fussy child. Remember, pediatric dentists work with children every day, and a little fussing won’t be too out of the ordinary. Your dentist will work with you and your child to create a happy experience.
Your child needs to understand why healthy teeth are so important. Teach your child that the dentist takes care of teeth so kids can eat, drink, and smile. If your child understands why it’s so important to have healthy teeth, he or she might be more willing to visit the dentist.
You should practice brushing teeth together as soon as your child has his or her first tooth. When it’s time to visit the dentist, role play together-sit your child in a chair and brush his or her teeth, explaining that this is exactly what the dentist will do.
You may even want to read books together about going to the dentist. The more your children understand about how important a dentist’s visit is, the easier it will be for them to hop into the dentist chair and open wide.
6. Don’t Bribe-Reward
In moments of desperation, you may want to say, “You can have a lollipop after the appointment.” But a bribe may actually make your child feel more anxious. Instead, when your child demonstrates good behavior before or during the appointment, give little rewards like stickers. These rewards will encourage your child to continue behaving well.
7. Be Positive
Kids pick up on all kinds of things, and your children will definitely notice your attitude toward the dentist. When you speak about the dentist and taking care of your teeth, always act positively. You may have had a bad experience with a dentist in the past, but your kids don’t need to know about it. Your attitude toward the dentist will impact the way they feel about dentists in the future.
Need more ideas to help your child feel comfortable at the dentist? Consult with your dentist today.