It is not uncommon for a child to be afraid of the dentist. It may be a fear of the unknown, a scary story that they heard from someone else or anxiety about experiencing pain or discomfort. Fortunately, there are things that parents can do and say to ease their child’s fear of the dentist. Making sure your child has a positive outlook on dental care is so important for both their current grin and their future smile.
Here are a few tips to help parents with a child’s first dental visit:
Careful With Your Words
Avoid using words like “shot” or “hurt,” when talking about the dentist. Instead of fumbling over the right words to use, it is best to just let the dental team do the talking. They are trained to use language that not only helps a child understand the process clearly but terms that will also ease their anxiety. Procedures like x-rays and professional cleanings are brand new to your child so just trust the experts to explain it appropriately.
Don’t Put It Off
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen for a dental checkup by their first birthday. This establishes a comfortable and safe feeling about the dentist for your child at a very early age. If you wait until they are well into their toddler years, you may find that you have to battle fear and anxiety of the unknown, making your first experience much more challenging. Furthermore, if you wait until your child has a dental problem such as a toothache, then his/her first visit will be associated with unpleasant memories and discomfort.
As a parent of a young child, you are probably well aware of the importance of being well rested and fed to avoid unpredictable or cranky behavior. Consider scheduling your child’s first appointment at the beginning of the day, right after breakfast.
Your best tool for preventing a dental visit meltdown can be the manner in which you approach and discuss dental care at home. Children should not feel like brushing is a chore or an unpleasant experience. Focus on the positive rewards of a healthy, clean smile so that going to the dentist can be something they look forward to and are proud of. To help establish excellent oral hygiene habits at home, ask your dentist for tips. Your dentist can suggest ways to keep your child brushing for the full 2 minutes as well as methods to make flossing easier.