How to Calm Your Child’s Dental Fears
Whether it’s time for a routine dental visit for your family or a filling for a cavity, it’s not uncommon for children to be scared of the dentist. With the proper encouragement from you and their dentist, however, many dental fears can be eliminated (or prevented in the first place).
The Importance of Early & Regular Visits
According to the Canadian Dental Association, children should visit the dentist when they get their first tooth or by the age of 1 (whichever is sooner). Early visits can not only help maintain your child’s oral health, but they can help reduce fear of the dentist too. The earlier and more regularly your child visits the dentist the more routine it will become.
Children are less likely to be afraid of something or someone they’re more familiar with. A visit every 6 months for an exam and cleaning will catch any dental problems early and familiarize your child with the dentist. If you can, try and request the same dentist and hygienist for each visit to further familiarize your child.
Talk to Your Child About the Dentist & Oral Health
Familiarizing your child with any topic can help with fear and anxiety. When it comes to their oral health, teach them about why caring for their teeth is important. Get them engaged and excited about brushing their teeth, flossing, and general oral health.
It’s also important to teach them about why visiting the dentist is important. Tell them how a “tooth doctor” or dentist helps keep their teeth healthy. Explain that the dentist will look at their teeth to make sure they’re healthy.
Be careful not to go into too much detail, however, as you could mistakenly confuse your child or worsen their fear. Instead, keep it brief and answer any questions they might have. Your dentist will know how to best explain dental topics in a child-friendly way.
Also, be careful to always use positive language when mentioning the dentist. Never mention the words pain, shot, or hurt, even to say something like “don’t worry, it won’t hurt”. Most children’s dental checkups are painless, so don’t even introduce the possibility of pain into their mind.
Read Books or Watch Videos About the Dentist
There are many resources available that will help explain the dentist in child-friendly terms. Various children’s books and YouTube videos are a fun way to explain the dentist to your child. If your child has a favourite TV show, see if that program has an episode about going to the dentist. Programming tailored to children will help your child understand what going to the dentist entails in an engaging way.
Be a Model Dental Patient
It’s no secret children mimic their parents, so a positive attitude from you can go a long way. In fact, research shows that many parents pass their dental fears onto their children. To prevent this, don’t tell your child about negative experiences you’ve had at the dentist. Procedures like root canals and tooth extractions are also best kept to yourself.
You can take being a model patient a step further and role play with your child. Take turns pretending to be the dentist and examine the mouth of a stuffed animal or doll. Country Hills Dental offers meet and greet appointments, which can help build familiarity and ease fears.
Pick the Right Time of Day
When you schedule a dental appointment for your child, schedule the appointment for a time of day when your child is happy and alert. If your child is hungry or tired this can worsen fear or cause bad behaviour at the dentist.
First thing in the morning after breakfast is often a good time. Try and avoid booking an appointment during or right before nap time and make sure they’ve had something to eat beforehand. It’s also important to never surprise your child with a dentist’s visit. Tell your child at least a week before about their dentist appointment and remind them in the days leading up to it.
Give Positive Reinforcement
Definitely don’t bribe your child, as that will make them think that something is wrong or that the dentist is something they should be scared of. Instead, praise your child for a job well done during and after their visit. Comment on things like sitting still in the chair or holding their mouth open for the dentist.
Choose a Dentist that Specializes in Family Dentistry
A dentist that specializes in family dentistry, like Country Hills Dental, is better equipped to handle young patients. We have games in the waiting room to make the environment more welcoming for children.
Our family dentists and staff also know how to explain dental topics to avoid scaring your child. If your child is scared, we know what techniques to use to make your child more comfortable and advise you on how you can help.