Most children have a fear of going to the dentist’s office for many reasons. There are frightening sounds and smells, not to mention the loud noises that accompany normal cleanings. Children are expected to allow strangers to touch them. Never punish your children for being afraid. Instead, help your children overcome their fears by using encouragement and showing compassion.
Pediatric Dentist Only
Always take children to a pediatric dentist. Their offices are set up with children in mind. They know that children will be fearful, and they are prepared to behave in ways that help children feel safe. Pediatric dentists can help them feel calm, and some even offer stickers or small “prizes” after their visit to keep the kids excited about coming back.
Give the Dentist a Good Rap
It is very important to help your children associate positive feelings and experiences with the dentist’s office. Take your children for routine exams and cleanings that do not lead to pain and trauma. When you take your children for their semi-annual check up, they will not associate the dentist’s office with fear.
Take your children to the same dentist every time. This makes the dentist’s office a familiar place and takes away the fear of the unknown. When your children know and are known by the receptionist and the hygienist, the dentist’s office is no longer an intimidating place.
Rewards Make a Difference
Give your child a reward for going to the dentist regardless of whether or not he was brave. This empowers your child to go to the dentist without the pressure to perform. A quick lunch after a cleaning can also be a time for you to answer any questions he may have about the dentist.
Make it Fun
Call dental procedures by names that make them less scary. For some, you can explain that going to the dentist is like getting your teeth sparkled. Others may appreciate a small game like finding different dental tools they see in children’s books to help familiarize themselves with the surroundings.
Take younger siblings along for the older sibling’s cleanings. This helps them become familiar with the sounds and smells of a dentist office without the pressure of having to participate in a dental procedure. When the older child shows no anxiety, the younger child benefits by trusting his older sibling’s confidence thus decreasing his fear of going to the dentist.
Our children cannot help being afraid and it is unreasonable of us to communicate that they shouldn’t be. There are things that we can do to help our children trust that their parents, dentist, and hygienist have their best interest at heart.
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver and often writes about family, health, home and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family when she isn’t writing. Informational credit to Kenai Dental Clinic.