EVEN THOUGH WE ALL know how important it is to go to the dentist, dental anxiety can make many people avoid crucial dental checkups. For some, dental anxiety starts in childhood and lasts a lifetime. How can we help our children start out with a positive mindset towards the dentist so that they will always seek the professional care and attention their teeth need as adults?
The most important thing you can do for your child is to not make a trip to the dentist into an ordeal. Simply approach it as a perfectly normal part of staying healthy. Tell your child about an upcoming dental visit ahead of time so that it isn’t a surprise, and answer their questions about what dental appointments are like. Try to avoid scary words like “pain” and “shots,” and leave the detailed explanations of dental procedures to us.
One crucial thing to do even when there isn’t an appointment coming up is to never use the dentist as a threat. Saying things like, “If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll end up at the dentist!” will only make a child think dentist visits are punishments — something to be feared and avoided. You can still encourage good oral hygiene habits without portraying the dentist as the boogeyman, like the way this video does:
If your child is already afraid of the dentist, you might have a little more of an uphill battle to fight, but it’s still a battle you can win! Communication is key. Talk to your child about why they’re afraid of the dentist and help them understand that it isn’t so scary. Lead by example and show them that you go to the dentist too.
Patience is also crucial. Even for adults, the idea of having a stranger poking and prodding inside our mouths while we’re lying in a vulnerable position can be unsettling, so imagine how that must be for a child who isn’t used to it. Make sure your child understands that dental cleanings will make their teeth feel great and that the dentist is on their team, helping them fight bad germs and tooth decay.
Sometimes, dental anxiety is too strong for these strategies to completely cure. That’s where we come in. Our team knows how to work with children to make them feel more comfortable, so don’t feel like you have to make them love us without our help!