Help Brush Away Your Kid’s Fear of the Dentist
Adults know that, while they might be a strange experience, dental check-ups are crucial to good health. But just try explaining that to a child! A dentist’s office is full of scary looking tools and getting your teeth cleaned can be uncomfortable—two things that can cause a tantrum in even the most mild-mannered kid.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a dentist for the first time by the time they turn one, or shortly after their first tooth grows in. So what can a parent do to make the whole ordeal more pleasant? Here are a few tips and tricks that can help:
- Be mindful of what you say. Never say anything negative about your own trips to the dentist in front of your children. Even words that seem neutral can sound scary to little ears, so avoid mentioning things like filling, shot, cavity, drill, rot or decay. Talk about the dentist in a positive way, like that he keeps your smile healthy.
- Play dentist at home. Instead of “playing doctor,” try switching it around so that your kid is pretending to be a dentist. Your child can pretend to brush the teeth of a doll or stuffed animal and you can show how the dentist will count all of their teeth. This will help them become familiar with the routine before their dentist visit.
- Visit the office before the big day. Dentist’s offices are unfamiliar and filled with lights, sounds, gadgets and strangers – enough to scare any child. You can help your child get familiar with their pediatric dentist by taking them for a pre-appointment tour – just call the office to confirm they offer them and get one scheduled. Your child can meet the dentist and staff and see the office space. This way, when he or she comes back for an appointment it isn’t a scary, unfamiliar place.
- Get them excited about dental hygiene. Let them pick their favorite cartoon-themed toothbrush, flavored toothpaste (like bubblegum) or rinsing cups to feel like caring for their teeth is fun. And feel free to mention to your kid that most pediatric dentists give kids a “goodie-bag” after the appointment—they’ll be even more excited to go.
- Provide comfort when necessary. Offer your child a hand to hold if they feel uneasy in the dentist chair or bring along a favorite toy for added comfort. A familiar face or object may help calm your child and make the appointment seem to go faster—making everyone happy.
What has helped your child overcome their fear of the dentist? Comment below and let us know.
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