How to Reduce Fear from Dentists in Children?
Going to the dentist can be pretty stressful, especially for young children. However, you shouldn’t delay their dental appointments and increase the possibility that they develop various oral health problems, especially when there are effective ways to help them overcome this fear and become familiar with the dentist’s office.
That said, we invite you to look at some actionable tips we’ve prepared for you below.
Set an Example to Them
Regular brushing and flossing play a key role in tooth decay prevention from an early age. If we do it regularly in front of our children, we will help them set the stage for developing amazing oral health habits. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice every day, for at least two minutes each time. When it comes to flossing, the official recommendation is to do it at least once a day.
Also, consider taking your child to your next dental visit with you. Be careful, though – in case you’ve scheduled an advanced procedure, perhaps it’s wiser to leave them at home. Children can sense your anxiety, even if you believe you’re well prepared for your appointment, and this can undermine your efforts.
Make It All a Part of a Game
You can always find fun and creative ways to teach your child what to expect from their dental appointment. Acting out a visit to a dentist’s office at home is definitely one of those. You can set up the chair in your living room and pretend to be a dentist – ask your child to allow you to examine and count their teeth, tell them that teeth cleaning is painless, and how it will make their teeth look nice and clean. In the end, thank them for their visit, and give them a small reward. This is a great way to prepare them for the real appointment.
Positive Reinforcement and Distractions
Speaking of small rewards, you can use positive reinforcement to help your child learn that going to the dentist has other positive sides, besides the most obvious ones such as having a happy and healthy smile. If you’re going to a pediatric dentist, chances are they will be giving small toys, stickers, or some sort of oral-themed gifts to their patients. You can also schedule some sort of a fun event following your child’s dental visit and make a tradition out of it. Don’t try to bribe them with a promise of lollipops, candies, and other sweets.
Also, ask your dentist whether it would be okay if your child took their favorite toy or an object with them during the visit to keep them calm and distracted.
Be Upfront but Choose Your Words Carefully
Avoid talking about fillings, root canals, pain, and going into details before your child’s treatment; leave it to the dentist instead. Keep in mind that pediatric dentists are specifically trained to approach young patients. Make sure to stick with positive terms as you explain to them the things they can expect at their dental visit. However, be honest as much as you can; if you tell them that it “won’t hurt a bit” or that it will “last for a minute” when, in reality, it’s not true, they can feel seriously betrayed afterward and even develop long-term dental anxiety.
You can also talk to your family or pediatric dentist to see if you can schedule a sort of a “rehearsal” visit for your child to make them familiar with the setting before the actual visit. They can sit in a dentist’s chair for a bit and get accustomed to smells, objects, lights, and tools that are typical for this type of environment, which can reduce their fear in the future.
How Covid-19 Affects Dental Visits and What You Can Do About It?
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the way it has turned our lives upside down, dental visits should be reduced to truly necessary ones for the time being. If your child needs an appointment, look for dental offices that comply with the Covid-19 health regulations and follow other general recommendations regarding safety. Avoid “rehearsal” trips to your dentist at the moment and only pay actual visits. Unfortunately, it also means that you won’t be able to rely on your pediatric or family dentist’s assistance as much you expect. However, this is just a temporary situation that will soon pass. Until then – make sure you do everything in your power to keep yourself, your family, and everyone around you safe!
How did you help your child overcome their fear of the dentist? Care to share a tip or two below? We’d really like to hear from you!