Going to the dentist is a fearful place to experience primarily as a child because they don’t know what to expect if it’s their first time or if they’ve had an unpleasant experience they now associate it with. As a child, it always seems scarier than it is and we get it. We’ve seen it with our little patients, and we, ourselves, see it with our children.
Even as an adult I still anxious of visiting a dentist and it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve gone to the dentist, there is always that pit of nausea and anguish I feel inside me which keeps me fidgeting. The same anxiety we might feel when we visit a dentist can be the same as a child’s. Not all experiences and fears are the same, but it does occur for children more often than not. It doesn’t go away so quickly, however, there are various approaches in which as a parent we can take to ease the anxiety a child feels.
Approaches Parents Can Take
Being a parent is not always easy because if our child shows a sign of distress, our first instinct is to reassure them everything will be okay, or we try to do bargain with them. But before you start reassuring everything will be fine or making any deals with them, try some of these approaches to ease their anxiety.
- Start Young – the younger you take your child to the dentist the more familiar they get to the environment. Yes, they will probably still get anxiety for their visit but knowing how dental check-ups work and seeing their dentist will help ease their feeling of anguish.
- Keep It Sweet and Simple – try not to give your child too many details about their visit. You want to stray from using words that evoke more fear such as “shot,” “pain,” and “everything will be fine”. You don’t want to tell your child it will be okay because you’re not sure if they will need treatment and it can break trust in you and the dentist. If your child asks you about their visit keep is simple and straightforward. Leave the dentist to ask the difficult questions as they are more experienced in easing the anxiety with children.
- Don’t Bargain or Bribe – even though this a quick way of getting them to get in the car or to look forward to visiting the dentist, you want to avoid doing so especially if you are making deals with sweets. You know the bribes we are talking about. “If you don’t fuss or cry, you will get ice cream” and so on. Well, what is the point of getting a dental clean or visit if you are going to let them have sweets? It then sends the wrong message. You can reward them with praise or the occasional gift of a toy or an extra hour of tv time.
- Pretend Dental Visits – play pretend with your child just like how they like to play doctor and patient, you can be the dentist, and they can be the patient. Of course, you don’t want to make it so realistic, just have a mirror they can hold up and a toothbrush. Don’t make drilling noises or have other objects be instruments. Instead, count their teeth.
- Choose A Kid-Friendly Dentist – picking a dentist and dental clinic that’s kid-friendly and orientated towards kids can ease the anxiety a child feels. This is where a pediatric dentist comes in; a pediatric dentist has two years of experience and knowledge on how to care for infants and children. Dental clinics with a pediatric dentist have multiple ways of offering decorations, rooms, and activities to help calm down a child while they receive their check-ups.
Next time you take your child to the dentist explain to them why it’s important to go to the dentist. Maybe leave out all the details but let them know why keeping a healthy smile and mouth is critical to their overall health. We know taking your child to the dentist can be a surprise because most of the time you don’t know how your child will react. So, before your child’s next dental visit try these approaches to ease the anxiety they have. If you’re looking for a pediatric dentist to treat and care for your child, book an appointment with us by filling out this form here.