Is your child afraid of the dentist? Do they put up a fight every time you try to get them to go to their appointment?
Over 16% of children have a strong fear of going to the dentist’s office. This not only makes it difficult for parents to force them to go, but it also has bad repercussions as your child grows older. They’ll be far less intent on going to a dentist for checkups as an adult if they don’t overcome this fear when they’re young.
We’ve collected all the best ways to overcome fear of their dentist so that your child won’t struggle against good oral health. Keep reading to find out more!
Avoid Frightening Words
Sometimes we encourage fear without even realizing it. Using certain words like ‘pain’ or ‘shots’ invokes a certain frightening quality to the dentist before anything ever happens. If you’re someone who hates the dentist, you may have given off that same vibe to your child.
That’s why you’ll want to be extra positive in the days leading up to the dentist appointment. Try to make your child excited about the prospect. Give them fun things to think about and ignore all of the things that cause dentist visits to be unpleasant.
Meet the Dentist Beforehand
If possible, it’s always a great idea to introduce your child to their dentist before the actual appointment. This gives them time to feel familiar with the dentist and allows your child to be more comfortable with them.
One of the key things for overcoming fear of dentists is to understand that the dentist wants the best for us. Meeting their dentist and interacting in a safe space goes a long way to quelling future fear. It’ll feel far more like being under the care of a friend rather than a stranger.
It’s also helpful if you’re able to keep visiting the same dentist as often as possible for all of your child’s dental care!
Bring a Comfort Item
Does your child have a stuffed bear that helps them sleep at night? What about a blanket they’re never seen without?
Instead of leaving an item like this at home, bring it to the appointment. Pediatric dentists understand that sometimes a child needs that extra protection of a familiar and beloved toy. As long as the toy isn’t in the way, there shouldn’t be a problem.
It’s always a good idea to ask beforehand, however, so make sure to contact the office before the day of the appointment!
Keep Your Own Anxiety in Check
As a parent, our fear for our child and their situation is often noticed by the child in question. If they see that you’re afraid or anxious, this tells them that they should be afraid or anxious as well.
One of the most helpful tips for parents is to remember to take a deep breath and present a calm exterior. Smile and laugh to show that there’s nothing to fear and that nothing’s wrong.
When your child sees this kind of behavior, they’re far more likely to act the same way. If their parents aren’t worried, then there’s nothing for them to worry about, either.
Talk Through the Visit
A good way to keep your child distracted during the appointment is to keep conversing with them. Talk about anything and everything except for what’s going on with the dentist’s tools.
You don’t want to talk over the dentist but small conversations during downtimes are a great way to keep your child from thinking about their fear.
Make sure to keep talking even when you’re child isn’t able to respond due to the procedure. The sound of your calming voice makes a big difference in the anxiety your child experiences.
Hold Their Hand
Physical touch is a comforting thing. It lets your child know that they’re not alone and that you’re there with them every step of the way.
You don’t want to crowd your child or else the dentist won’t have space to work. Instead, hold your child’s hand during the procedure. It’s the best way to connect with your child without getting in the way.
It’s a simple act that does so much to help your child overcome their fear.
Explain the Need for Healthy Teeth
Children understand difficult topics even when we think they’re too young. Take the time to sit down with your child and explain how important healthy teeth are to their overall health. Let them know that going to the dentist is a thing that everyone needs to do so that they can eat all of their favorite foods.
When you focus on the vital reasons behind the dentist visits, your child won’t have as hard of a time accepting the inevitable.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool that helps children learn that going to the dentist isn’t always a bad thing. Don’t outright tell your child that you plan to reward them if they’re good, however. This emphasizes the wrong idea.
It’s better to let them know how well they did after the visit so that your child feels a greater sense of accomplishment. They’ll feel like they overcame something that scared them and it’s a good thing that they pushed through it.
Going out for a treat or a new toy is a great way to reward your child after a difficult dentist’s appointment.
Don’t Let Your Child Continue Being Afraid of the Dentist
We all want our children to have beautiful and confident smiles. It’s a wonderful gift that keeps giving throughout their entire lives. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your child is no longer afraid of the dentist.
By following our advice listed above, it’ll be a lot easier to overcome that fear. Make sure to take it easy and try not to push too hard. It’s best to go one step at a time so your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed during the process.
Don’t forget to contact us if you need any other specific help before your visit!