What is it about the dentist’s office that strikes fear into the heart of children? Ok, this may be a stretch, but I certainly remember never wanting to go when I was a kid. Perhaps it was the thought of all those metal trinkets and tools that made me feel uncertain, and not knowing what they would be used for. Though there are some similarities about having to go to the doctor, the experience is a bit different.
Tackling Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist
While getting a shot is no fun, children can better understand the need to visit a medical clinic. They actually feel sick when they go to the doctor, which makes them more apt to get well. It is hard to explain to a child the concept of preventative maintenance that the dentist’s job is to keep their mouth healthy.
As a parent, I fully appreciate and understand the frustration associated with having to convince your son or daughter that they do not need to be afraid of the dentist. Here are some tips to help ease your child’s concerns and get them excited about the experience.
4 Tips for Parents to Make Your Little One Enjoy Visiting the Dentist
- Bring them in as early as possible
- Don’t discuss the details, but also don’t lie
- Take your child with you to your visit
- Be there for them
The younger your child is when he or she visits the dentist, the less likely they will be to be afraid. They will learn early on that the dentist is there to help them and that the office is not a scary place. It is recommended to take your son or daughter for their visit check-up or wellness visit when they turn one, or when their first tooth becomes visible.
This can be a tricky topic, especially if your child is old enough to make sense of the experience. Instead of telling them exactly what is going to happen (no kid wants to hear they are going to have a cavity removed or have their teeth probed with a metal pick), keep the conversation brief and say that the dentist is going to check their mouth and clean their teeth. To avoid giving them a false sense of security, you also should not say nothing is going to happen, because that may not necessarily be true.
Not only will this establish a sense of trust (seeing mom or dad get their teeth cleaned can give them confidence), it will also give your son or daughter the opportunity to see exactly what to expect. A pretend visit can alleviate a lot of their apprehension and concern. However, only do this if you yourself are not afraid to go, as your child will likely detect these feelings.
Holding your child’s hand or just being in the room when they are getting their teeth cleaned is enough to keep them calm. Being in a room with strangers (especially ones will strange outfits) can be understandably scary. Make sure to praise them after the appointment is over and tell them how proud you are. Encouragement is the best way to improve their self-esteem.
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