How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Afraid of the Dentist
Most people with dental anxieties and fears got them as children. From unexpected pain to an insensitive dentist, fears can be created by almost anything and anyone. As parents, what we all want most is to raise happy, healthy children. Part of that means making sure they get good dental care from a young age and continue receiving it well after they become adults.
When your child is afraid of the dentist, it can be stressful for everyone in the family. Not all children are afraid, though. If you want to make sure you raise your kids to be comfortable going to the dentist, here are a few ways to help them.
Be Positive About the Dentist
If you dread going to the dentist, so will they. If you panic, so will they. When children are young, it’s important to be realistic and honest with them but also positive. You may have your own dental anxieties you’re working through, which is understandable and common. As long as you believe you’ve found a great dentist, don’t let your fears become your children’s fears. Instead of speaking about going to the dentist with fear and dread, do your best to stay upbeat leading up to their appointment and throughout.
Encourage them to Talk to You
Going to the dentist for the first time can be scary for many children. Having a new or difficult procedure frightens people of all ages. Encourage your children to talk to you about how they feel. Being able to share their feelings is helpful. Your job will be to reassure them, help them learn what to expect, and offer support. If you can help them see there’s nothing to fear as they go through the procedure, they’ll be more relaxed. Bottling up your feelings often makes fears grow disproportionately. Allow your children the space to tell you they’re nervous and then talk to them about it.
Make Going to the Dentist a Normal Part of Life
Kids love to ask, “Why?” especially when something is new or when they don’t want to do it. Explain that it helps keep their teeth healthy. Tell them that going to the dentist is just like going to the doctor each year. Their dentist wants to make sure they grow up healthy and happy, and taking care of their teeth is a big part of that. Being matter of fact about it will help your child see it as a normal part of life and not necessarily something to dread or be afraid of.
Don’t Lie About What They Can Expect
If your child has to have a procedure that might be uncomfortable or use loud tools like drills, don’t lie to them about what to expect. For parents unsure of how to explain the procedure in age-appropriate terms, talk to your dentist. They may be able to do it for you or help you understand the procedure better. Sometimes fears occur because of unexpected pain, noise, or situations. Giving your child good information before the procedure helps them know what to expect and reduces anxieties and fears.
Work With a Good Dentist
The best way to raise a child who doesn’t have dental fears is to work with a good dentist. Look for someone who understands dental fears and anxieties and is willing to work through them with patients. You want someone with a kind and caring staff in a calm, relaxing office environment. A great dentist takes the time to explain procedures and help patients feel calm and relaxed leading up to the appointment or procedure. Once your child has enough good experiences with their dentist, it will be much harder for dental fears to develop.
When our children are afraid, it can break our hearts. We want them to be happy, healthy, and full of life and exuberance. Seeing your child scared hurts. Dental fears and anxieties might seem like a “natural” part of life, but they aren’t and don’t have to be. If you’re a parent with your own fears, you know how agonizing it can be. Be purposeful in how you deal with dental procedures and appointments with your kids to avoid the fears that may plague you. Do your best to allow your children to grow up free of fear. Most importantly, work with your dentist to help make this possible, especially if you have your own fears to deal with.