How to ease your child’s fear of the dentist.
Easing a child’s fear of monsters and the dark is tough. When it comes to going to the dentist it may seem impossible. As parents, we know all too well how difficult it can be to get your child to eat their vegetables or brush their teeth. We seem to always be in a constant battle to get our kids to do what we know is best for them. Taking them to the dentist isn’t much different. But it can be done! Here are just a few ways you can ease your child’s fear of the dentist.
Choose the Right Dentist
Just like any other doctor, dentists have specialties, or specific areas they practice. Pediatric dentists specialize with children. Make sure you schedule your little one’s appointment with a pediatric dentist. They will have experience and expertise dealing with children and an environment that will ease their fears and anxiety. Let the dentist and her staff guide you. This may include having you stay at a distance or staying close and holding their hand. Remember they are highly trained and are they to help.
The younger the child visits the dentist, the better. Experts say the best time for a child’s first visit starts around age 1 or when the first tooth is visible. This also helps the child develop good memories and relieves fear by going consistently to one particular place and person. We want them to build happy associations especially for their first several appointments.
Keeping a positive attitude about your child’s visit will lessen fear. Avoid giving too much information and saying particular words that may increase anxiety – such as shot, pain, hurt, and scared. Stick with positive words like ‘strong and healthy teeth’ so that kids will be encouraged to go without being afraid. Kids will follow your lead, parents, so if you act stressed or worried they will too. Allow the dentist to introduce your child to this experience with their own vocabulary. They are experienced professionals and have tried and true results with what works with kids.
Before your child’s first visit, playing pretend can especially help. Take turns letting your child be the patient and then the dentist. All you need is a toothbrush. Start by counting their teeth out loud while touching them gently with the toothbrush. Avoid making scary noises or using/introducing other “tools”. You can even encourage some role-playing with your child being the dentist and one of their favorite stuffed animals or toys as the patient
It is normal and very common for a young child to cry and not want to be examined by a stranger. Keep this in mind and let your dentist and her staff do their magic. Just remember to reinforce the idea that visiting the dentist is a necessity to help your child’s teeth stay healthy. Contact Dr. Alicia Abeyta, DDS if you need to schedule a pediatric appointment for your little one.