03 Jan How to Help Your Children Feel Less Nervous at the Dentist
Feeling a little nervous before a dentist appointment is common. Many adults have mild to severe dental anxieties and fears, as do children. Ideally, though, kids should be able to grow up with a healthy understanding of why dental hygiene is important and without debilitating fears of the dentist or dental procedures.
To help your child feel less nervous at the dentist and grow up without the fears you may experience, there are plenty of things you can do when they’re young.
Talk About Going to the Dentist
Never lie to your child about what to expect at the dentist but also keep your language simple. Since you don’t know if your child will need a procedure or not or what kind of treatment the dentist will recommend, stick to the basics. “The dentist will count your teeth and make sure they’re all healthy” is a great way to start. Answer their questions in an age-appropriate way and reassure a nervous child you’ll be with them.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Certain words can make a child nervous like pain, shot, and needles. Do your best to avoid those words. A dentist who’s used to working with children may use different terminology to avoid scaring children. Focus your conversation with your child on keeping their teeth clean and healthy and follow your dentist’s lead when describing what’s being done.
Play Pretend Before the Appointment
To help your little one have an idea of what to expect before the visit, play pretend together. All you need is a toothbrush. Have them sit back and practice opening their mouth very wide. Then use the toothbrush to count their teeth. Make a game out of it for your child. By the time they arrive at the dentist’s office, they’ll know more of what to expect and be less nervous.
It’s easy to get worried for your child, especially if you have some dental anxiety and fears of your own. At the same time, it’s also completely normal for children to fuss, have a tantrum, or not want to open their mouth. Stay calm and work with the dental staff by following their lead. They’re trained to deal with children (and adults) who’d rather not be there. If you get worked up, your child may dig their heels in or think they should really be scared.
Don’t Share Your Own Fears or Past Problems
Young children aren’t going to understand that your experience won’t be the same for them at the dentist. If you share everything that’s ever gone wrong for you at the dentist or all the fears you have, they’re likely to assume they should be worried, too. Before they’re even in the chair, they’ll be expecting the worst. Focus on the positive with your children and wait until they’re much older (if ever) to share your war stories.
Talk About Why Going to the Dentist is Important
Going to the dentist when they’re young can set your child up for a lifetime of good dental health. Helping them see it as a necessity instead of a choice helps, too. Talk about the importance of clean or healthy teeth. Help them understand that going to the dentist for a check-up is no different than going to their pediatrician for a check-up. Emphasize that the dentist wants them to have healthy teeth and it’s their job to make sure your child’s teeth grow up as big and strong as them.
Find a Good Dentist
If you’ve had poor experiences with a dentist in the past, you know how hard it can be to want to go to the dentist for a cleaning or dental procedure. Look for a dentist who knows how to work with kids and who’s committed to helping patients, of any age, deal with their anxiety and fear. When you like your dentist, there’s a better chance your child will, too.
The best way to deal with dental fears is to prevent them in the first place. When children have better experiences at a young age, they’re more likely to visit the dentist as needed for the rest of their lives. This improves their dental health as well as their overall health. Do your best to help your child see a dentist who specialises in anxiety and dentistry, and a friendly doctor who wants to keep them healthy and work with a dentist who’s good with children and understands dental anxieties. By working with your kids now, you can make sure they’re ready for the years ahead when going to the dentist requires more than a basic cleaning.