It’s extremely normal for your child to get anxious before their dental appointment, especially if it’s their first time. But for non-first-timers, their previous experience is what triggers the anxiety. Either way, there are several things you can do to help ease your child’s fears at dental appointments:
General tip: Prepare your children ahead of time about their trip to the dentist.
Establish children expectations
Talk to your child and be honest about what will happen in the dental practice, whether it is a simple check-up or a more significant procedure. Answer your child’s questions; explain everything in an easy-to-understand and comforting way. For example, don’t say the word “needle” or “poke.” Instead, say “The dentist is going to put your tooth to sleep.” If your child prefers visual explanation, sit down together and look for pictures of pediatric dental offices. Point out the dental chair, the overhead light and other equipment that are commonly used by the dentists when treating children’s teeth. To boost positivity in children about going to the dentist, offer them a special gift that they would look forward to when the procedure is done – maybe an ice cream, a trip to the zoo, a movie, or anything else that you know they would love.
Let a friend come along with them
A friend is a good source of strength and motivation for children. It may come in the form of a stuffed toy, a pet, or a friend of theirs. Letting your child bring a friend with them will help them think about other things instead of worrying about the dentist. It’s also a good form of distraction.
Read a story or play games involving dental visits
Before going to the practice, read a book to your child – a story that is geared towards their age level. You may also watch a TV episode or video online about another child’s first visit to the dentist. When children become used to a dental setting and dental procedures, it will be easier for them to want to visit the dentist regularly because they will feel more comfortable. Reading a story and playing a game are excellent ways to establish a positive attitude in children before they visit their dentist.
It’s never a good idea to tell your kids about bad dental experiences that you may have had; you want to establish positive connections only. And if you’ve just seen the dentist and you suffer from dental phobia, don’t pass that phobia onto your kids by expressing negative emotions or using negative descriptions of your experience.
You oral health is in your hands, and you should be reinforced to children at an early age in order to develop a positive attitude toward dental care; this includes regular dental appointments. Children should understand that dentists are there to help treat their teeth to keep them healthy, and that visiting a dental practice is not a scary experience.