Did you know that 85 percent of adults have dental anxiety? For many, their fear of the dentist started during childhood. If your parents had anxiety about going to the dentist, you likely were also affected.
How can you ensure your child doesn’t inherit this fear of the dentist? The key is to make pediatric visits to the dentist a positive and nonchalant experience. Regular dental checkups are crucial for childrens’ oral health. These pediatric dental appointments prevent disease, maintain white teeth, and teach hygienic behaviors.
There are number of valuable tips to prepare your child for their next dental appointment and make sure it is an enjoyable experience.
1. Use Positive Language
Children don’t understand everything we say, but they do recognize certain trigger words. Certain words like, “hurt” or “pain”, represent something bad to them. It is important to avoid saying these words when talking about their appointment. You should also avoid using technical language that they won’t understand. Keywords like, “polishing”, “scraping”, and “grinding” should be avoided because they can cause unnecessary anxiety for children. When discussing their dental appointment, use simple and positive language. Some parents mention that the dentist will count their teeth and check their smile. These are both things that a child understands and will view positively.
2. Have a Pretend Appointment
If your child has numerous questions about the appointment, it is good idea to provide a practice one. You can give the child a handheld mirror to inspect their teeth. Perhaps you can ask them to count how many teeth they have in their mouth. You can bring their attention to the color of their teeth. You should explain that when you brush your teeth every morning and night, they look white. Another good idea is practicing having them sit with their mouth open while you examine their mouth. You can count their teeth and assess their smile. When the examination is done, tell the child they were amazing and that the appointment will be a breeze.
3. Choose a Kid-Friendly Dentist
Some dentists specialize in pediatric dentistry. You don’t necessarily need to go find a pediatric specialist, but you want to make sure your dental provider is good with kids. Ideally, their office should have some books and toys for children. The dentist should be good at asking your child questions and smiling to ease their nerves. Most dentists that have experience with children will know how to make the appointment run smoothly.
If your current dentist doesn’t provide pediatric dentistry, it is important to find a dental provider that does. There are plenty of kid-friendly dentists that will make the experience a positive one!
4. Visit the Office Early
If your child experiences anxiety in new environments, visit the office a few days early. Most dental offices are happy to give you a tour of their facility, especially if it helps make a nervous child feel more comfortable. It is a good idea to introduce them to the friendly front-desk staff and hygienists. If the dentist has time, it is smart to introduce them to your child. Simply playing with waiting room toys and sitting in the dental chair can ease your child’s nerves. When your child is ready for their actual appointment, everything will be familiar and the experience will be more enjoyable.
5. Hide Your Own Fears
Are you one of the 85 percent of adults with dental phobia? If you don’t want to pass that anxiety along to your child, it’s best to hide your fear or get it treated. Children mimic their parent’s actions, language, and emotions. If you treat the dentist office like it’s something to fear, your children will too. It is a good idea to never share bad experiences you’ve had at the dentist. If going to the dental office triggers panic or anxiety for you, you may want to ask someone else to bring your child. This should be a positive and safe experience for them.
6. Follow the Dentist’s Lead
Different children react to the dentist differently. Some kids will feel comfortable until they climb in the chair. Other children have separation anxiety and will want to sit on your lap.
You need to follow the dentist’s lead in these situations. They might pause the cleaning to talk with them or distract them with questions. They could turn on a kids’ TV show in the room. Dentists who work with pediatric patients are familiar with this process. They often know how to make the visit go quickly.
7. Don’t Promise a Reward
When do children normally receive rewards? Most kids receive rewards when they’ve accomplished something difficult, scary, time-consuming, or not fun. The dental visit should not be considered any of those things. So, it doesn’t warrant a promised reward. When you promise a child they’ll get a prize after the appointment, their guard goes up. Why won’t I enjoy this? What’s going to happen?
Instead, surprise them with a reward after the appointment. This should be considered a post-cleaning treat for behaving so well.
8. Start Appointments Early
The sooner you schedule your child’s next dental appointment, the sooner the dentist can start protecting their teeth. Regular dental checkups allow the dentist to detect problems early and treat them right proactively. Neglecting to take your child to regular appointments can lead to expensive and preventable dental issues.
It is important to familiarize your child with the dentist as soon as all their teeth erupted. The key is to create positive experiences in the dental chair early. The next time they visit the dentist they’ll know what to expect and feel comfortable with it.
Is Your Child Nervous About Going to the Dentist?
You can make your child’s first dental appointment fun and easy, by keeping pre-visit chat to a minimum. When you do explain the appointment, only use positive and stress-free language.
Feel free to contact the dental office to arrange a visit before the appointment. Most practices will be happy to oblige and show your child how fun going to the dentist can be!
Here at Pediatric Dentistry of Burke, we love when our little patients come for checkups. We enjoy making sure they feel comfortable and happy, while keeping their mouth and teeth healthy!
To book your child in for their annual cleaning, contact us today.