Kids sometimes experience anxiety or even fear before visiting the dentist. This can be true whether it’s the first trip to the dentist or not.
Small children may not remember a dental appointment that was six months ago, so it can be like a whole new experience to go again. But, there are many ways to make it a positive experience for your child.
According to Dr. Robert Balsmeier, a pediatric dentist in North Phoenix, “having a dental office that is warm and inviting is the key to helping children feel safe and comfortable whether they are seeing the dentist for the very first time or have been a regular patient.” “Comfortable furniture, youthful decor, and iPads or TVs all lend to a positive experience”, he says. Dr. Balsmeier ads, “There are plenty of things parents can do to help their child have a positive experience, including bringing your child to the same dentist throughout his or her childhood so they can build a trusting relationship.”
Here are some other steps you can take to help prepare your child for a visit with the dentist and decrease dental anxiety in your kids.
Do some reading.
Books can be a great way to make a new experience seem familiar. Take your kids to the library and look for books about going to the dentist. Read the books out loud together and talk about what happens to the characters. If you’re in the market to buy a book or two, here are a few options we like.
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist
Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer
Choose a friend.
You and your child can choose a special stuffed animal to bring to the dentist with you. Holding a stuffed animal can be an instant comfort to a child, and it can serve as a model at the visit. Most kids’ dentists are happy to check a stuffed animal’s teeth before attending to the human patient.
Provide kid-friendly answers.
Have an upbeat conversation with your kids about what will happen at the dentist’s office. Ask them if they have any questions, and listen carefully to their concerns. Answer questions as honestly as possible without going into details that could cause your children to be afraid. For example, there is no reason for your child to know that dentists sometimes give shots unless it’s a real possibility that your child will need one.
Avoid expressing your own fears about the dentist or telling your child about bad experiences you have had. Also, don’t attempt to scare children into good oral hygiene by telling them that having a cavity filled will be painful or that the dentist will pull out their teeth.
Make it a game.
Set up a pretend dental office in your child’s bedroom or another area of your house. First, tell the child that you will be pretending to be the dentist, and the child will be the patient. Be funny and silly as you pretend to check your child’s teeth. When you’re done, reverse roles and let your child be the dentist. Care.com has a few dental game ideas that are worth checking out as well.
Set up a pre-visit.
Call your dentist’s office to ask if you and your child could come by before the child’s appointment. That way your child can meet the dental staff, see any fun toys in the waiting room and even see the special moving chair where patients are allowed to sit. The visit won’t take very long, and it can ease your child’s fear of the unknown.
Because oral health is so important, it will benefit your child if you encourage positive feelings about the dentist. Try these five ideas to help calm your child’s anxiety and make going to the dentist stress-free and fun.