As a parent, you know visits to the dentist play a critical role in maintaining your child’s oral health. That might be hard for kids to understand as they lie back in an unfamiliar office with a stranger standing over them and loud noises coming from every direction.
Unfortunately, fear of the dentist can lead to a delay in treatment and, eventually, poor oral health.
There are ways to help your children with their dental anxiety, though. Keep reading for helpful tips when your child says, “I’m scared of the dentist!”.
Tips to alleviate children’s fear of the dentist
Although it can be frustrating, helping your children get over their fear of the dentist is one of the best things parents can do. Here are some ideas to get started:
Your child should meet the dentist when their baby teeth come in or by their first birthday. Early visits to the dentist show kids that dental visits are important in helping them keep their best smile. These visits also make your child more comfortable with the dental office when they return for regular checkups as they age.
Choose a pediatric dentist
You might think it’s a good idea to choose your family dentist but finding a pediatric dentist for your child is a better option. After dental school, pediatric dentists take two to three years of specialty training to make them experts at treating kids, including young patients that express fear of the dentist. Their offices are also more likely to feature kid-friendly decorations and comfort toys.
Watch your words
It may be tempting to reassure by saying, “it won’t hurt” or “it won’t be scary,” but those statements can actually give kids the impression that they have something to fear. Explain that the dentist will use special tools to make sure their teeth are clean and healthy, and things might get loud sometimes. You can tell your child that you visited the dentist, too, as a kid, but leave out the “war stories” that mention negative experiences.
Pack patience and pay attention
Don’t get mad or feel embarrassed by your child’s anxiety. Forcing them through the appointment by pinning their arms down, yelling, or making threats can make the experience worse. Consider going into the exam room with your child. Kids older than eight may not need the extra support, but for younger children , holding their hands or allowing them to sit on your lap during the exam can give them the comfort they need. If your child clams up or gets shy when the hygienist asks questions, they may require you to answer for them. But don’t be the parent who tries to take over the exam room. Trust the staff and know that they also want to make it through the appointment.
Defeating the fear of the dentist in children is important
When it comes to your children, nothing is more important than their health. Helping them understand the importance of seeing a dentist and discovering ways to deal with their worries will help ensure good oral health now and in the future.
Need help finding a pediatric dentist? Click here.
*Updated February 2023