What If My Child Is Scared of the Dentist?
Many children have a fear of going to the dentist. It’s a normal reaction for young kids when faced with the unfamiliar. All the new sights, sounds, and people involved in a trip to the dentist are intimidating if they aren’t prepared for the experience. Take action early on to ease your child’s fears and help them to view dental appointments as a fun adventure. With the right strategies, you can calm your child quickly or even prevent their fear completely.
Tips to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist
There are quite a few things you can do to help prepare your child for a trip to the dentist. Take some time before the appointment to address your child’s fears and help them to understand what to expect.
Schedule Your Child’s Initial Visit When They’re Young
Take your child to a pediatric dentist as soon as they start getting baby teeth. The first visit should happen before the child’s first birthday. Early appointments help children get used to the dentist before they have a chance to develop any fear of the experience.
Children that grow up already familiar with the dentist’s office don’t have any negative connotations and even look forward to going. This is the first step to getting your child to understand the importance of oral health and the necessity of attending regular appointments.
Discuss Oral Health and What to Expect
Never surprise your child with a new experience. Help them to feel safe by telling them exactly what to expect. You can read books and watch videos of dental cleanings together so your child understands that this is a normal experience and there is nothing to fear. Let them ask questions about what they see and hear to set their mind at ease.
Choose your words carefully. Be honest and answer any questions using positive language. Don’t issue warnings about noisy dental tools or bright lights. Instead, tell them that Dr. Hines will clean their teeth and help make them strong. Ask the dentist to help explain any technical terms and tools. Tell your child how these instruments are special and meant to keep their teeth healthy.
Set a Good Example
Your child looks to you to learn how to behave and how to react. If you act excited and happy about going to the dentist, your child will copy your example. This is also true when it comes to oral hygiene habits. Teach your child by example and take good care of your teeth and gums. If you don’t particularly like going to the dentist yourself, make sure you don’t let your child see your nervousness.
Make it Fun
Playtime and playing pretend are important developmental tools for children to learn about the world and overcome fears. Make dental appointments fun by incorporating some games into your playtime. Play pretend as you teach your child to brush and flush their teeth. Let them make believe that they are at a real dentist appointment. Encourage your child to practice their new oral care skills on their stuffed animals and dolls.
Go to a Pediatric Dentist
Choosing the right dentist makes a huge difference. Adult dental offices are often uncomfortable and scary to kids. A pediatric dental office like Hines Little Smiles is designed specifically for children. The cheerful decorations and smaller equipment keep children engaged and at ease. Pediatric dentists also have plenty of training and experience in working with children and know exactly how to keep your little one calm. It’s also important to note that you should schedule dental appointments at the best possible time of day to ensure your child is well rested and happy, such as after a nap.
Bring a Favorite Comfort Toy
Another helpful hint is to have your child bring along a favorite stuffed animal. Encourage them to bring a cherished toy that provides comfort and helps to put them at ease. This gives your child something to hold and focus their attention on if they get scared.
Choose Sedation Dentistry
If your child still has a tough time shaking off a fear of the dentist, you can discuss the possibility of sedation dentistry. A crying and fidgeting child makes it nearly impossible to conduct an exam. Sedation dentistry can help children with special needs and those with untamed fears or prior negative experiences. There are several safe and effective methods of sedation:
- Nitrous oxide
- IV sedation in the office
- General anesthesia in a hospital
Every child and situation is different and requires a unique approach. Dr. Hines will discuss your child’s needs with you and explain the details of any recommended treatment.
Focus on Positive Reinforcement
Many parents find it helpful to offer a small reward as something to look forward to after the dentist. Stick to rewards that don’t involve sugar or other treats that are detrimental to oral health. Always focus on rewarding positive behavior and never bribe them to behave. If you offer a treat for making it through the appointment without crying, the child may wonder what could be so bad as to make them cry in the first place. Instances like these are where fear of the dentist starts to creep in.
Hines Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Hines and the entire dental team at Hines Little Smiles understand how important it is to help your child overcome their fears and look forward to visits to the dentist. Our office is full of bright colors, fun toys, and smiling faces to make your child feel happy and excited to be here. We always take the time needed to help your child acclimate to the experience and offer friendly encouragement and explanations to set their mind at ease. Our team is committed to providing excellent dental care in a comforting environment that makes you are your child feel safe and relaxed, knowing they are in good hands. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!