Many times dental visits stir up some nerves, especially for children who have never seen a dentist before or who have endured painful procedures in the past. Without even realizing it, parents may be contributing to their child’s fears as well based on their own experiences.
It’s important for children to have a positive view of going to the dentist and alleviating the fear associated with dental offices is crucial in encouraging overall health. Past childhood, young adults who are not concerned go to the dentist are much more likely to attend regular visits and be proactive in the care of their teeth.
What do you do if your child is scared to go to the dentist? Read below for some tips.
It’s best to start young.
- We recommend that your child be seen for their first dental visit when they have eight fully erupted teeth or by their first birthday. Early prevention and education is critical at this time. If a child has been seeing a dentist for as far back as he or she can remember, there will likely be much less anxiety over routine visits.
- Learn what to expect at your child’s first visit to the dentist. First Dental Visit: 2-3 Year Old
Watch what you say before the visit.
- Teach your child that visiting the dentist is necessary for building strong teeth. Don’t try to reason with your child about the visit. Your child must attend… without bribery!
- Keep your communication simple. Long explanations may raise more questions and concerns. Simply tell your child that the dentist will check and count their teeth and that the visit is important to keep their smile nice.
- Don’t tell your children that “it’s not going to hurt” or not to be afraid. These phrases may make children think that there may be something to be scared of.
- It’s important to avoid words which connote fear, such as “hurt”, “shot”, “pain”, or “drill”.
Allow us to communicate during the visit.
- Although you know your child better than we do, we have more experience communicating with children in this situation. If needed, we can look to you for support. During the first visit, we do a lot more talking than anything else. We get to know you, your child, and talk about your child’s current dental habits.
- Let us introduce our kid-friendly vocabulary to your child. “Princess Juice”, “tickler tools”, and “slurpy machines” are some of our favorites.
- We let kids know what to expect. Sure, when we tell the kids we are going to “tickle their teeth”, we are actually scraping and flossing. But to a child, it doesn’t feel like anything more than a tickle.
Build excitement for the visit.
- Make the visit an experience, rather than a chore. If possible, do something fun before or after the visit and make a day of it.
- At most pediatric dental offices, children receive positive reinforcements at the end of visits such as toothbrushes, stickers, and balloons. Remind your child to look forward to these fun gifts. When children return to the office, they remember these positive things. You can also help your child remember his or her staff “friends” at the office.
- It’s normal for a young child to get a bit worked up over being examined by a stranger. Please trust your experienced pediatric dental staff. By earning your trust, we will earn your child’s trust as well.
At Pediatric Dental Group of New York, we aim to make your child’s visit as pleasant as possible. Our goal is to provide optimal dental care in a gentle and caring manner to all our patients and to build healthy smiles that last a lifetime. From the moment your family walks into our waiting room, we’ll be caring for your kids as best we can. If we can at all do something better to comfort your child, please let us know!