For some children, going to the dentist is a treat. They get a sparkly clean smile, special attention from the dentist and their staff, and they usually get to go home with a new toothbrush, toy, or treat afterwards. For other children, going to the dentist is an unfamiliar experience that can generate a lot of anxiety.
Feeling some nervousness before going to the dentist is normal for both kids and adults, but there are things you can do to help your child overcome their dental anxiety!
The American Dental Association recommends that children be seen on or around the time that their first tooth comes in. This is around age six months old! This is a great time to get your child used to the dentist and be familiar with the surroundings and environment of the dentist office. As your child grows up and receives regular checkups, he or she will become familiar with the dentist—the earlier you can start taking your child to the dentist, the less anxiety he or she will experience.
Leave It to the Experts
When talking to your child about the dentist, never tell your child that pain will be involved or insinuate that it will hurt. Leave the explaining of the procedures that will be done to the experts. Dentists who see children know how to communicate with them on an age-appropriate level about what will happen and the tools that are used in the dentist’s office. All you need to tell your child is that the dentist and the staff will be nice and gentle with their teeth and gums!
Children are often much more perceptive than we give them credit for and can sense your tension. If you’re worried or anxious about taking them to the dentist, then they will be worried and anxious as well. Instead, remain calm and know that your child will be seen by professionals who are experts at communicating with children and cleaning their teeth. Keep your stress and tension in check before you reassure your child. Relax!
It’s normal for children to experience some anxiety, so be understanding. Let your child know that it’s alright to feel anxious and scared. Talk with them about what their fears are and do your best to let them know that the dentists will be accommodating and caring. The more understanding you are about your child’s dental anxiety, the less anxious they’ll feel!
Choosing the Right Dentist
It’s important to choose a dentist who is experienced in treating children and who has a child-friendly practice. Many dentists offer special sunglasses, movie choices, and toys to help children feel more at home and relaxed in the practice. Look in your area and visit the office with your child to see how you both like it.
Your child doesn’t have to feel anxious about seeing the dentist— by following these tips, you can help your child to overcome their dental anxiety. Remember that the earlier they see the dentist the better, and always let your dentist explain the procedures. Reassure your child, but relax yourself! And pick a dentist that makes you both feel right at home.