Going to the dentist can sometimes be a fearful experience for small children. A child’s fear can be caused by the uncertainty of not knowing what to expect or may be caused by negative attitudes a child learns from friends or family members. Helping your child develop a healthy attitude about going to the dentist will make trips to visit the dentist a normal part of life rather than something to dread.
Set a Good Example
Express positive thoughts when you go to get a dental cleaning done. Letting your child hear positive feedback about your own experience at the dentist can help alleviate fears when it’s their turn to visit the dentist. Talk about how clean and fresh your mouth feels after a cleaning and how you like having white teeth and a healthy smile.
Develop a consistent routine of dental care at home and be a role model by brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. Discuss the importance of diet and nutrition for keeping teeth and gums healthy. Limit your intake of sugary soft drinks and candy, which can be unhealthy for teeth, and choose fruits and vegetables for snacks instead to encourage your child to make healthier snacking choices.
Read Books About the Dentist
Books about going to the dentist are great teaching tools to promote dental health. If your child has a favorite TV or cartoon character, see if you can find a book about that character going to the dentist. Knowing a character they love doesn’t mind going to the dentist can go a long way in banishing any fears and uncertainties your child may have.
You may also wish to role play after reading a book. Let your child pretend to be the dentist and you be the patient and then reverse roles. Acting out the process of going to the dentist with a little humor thrown in can put your child at ease when it’s time for their first dental appointment.
Be Mindful When Scheduling Appointments
Schedule dental appointments to coincide with the time of day when your child is in the best mood. For instance, if your child tends to be happiest early in the morning, try to get an appointment early in the day. Avoid scheduling appointments close to nap or mealtimes when toddlers and small children may be irritable or less cooperative.
Prepare Ahead for the First Visit
Discuss what to expect at your child’s first dental visit before you arrive. Most dentists are happy to let your child get familiar with the dental office and staff at their first appointment. Your child may feel less anxious if they are able to meet the dentist and staff before they are sitting in the chair to get a cleaning or dental work done.
Ask if your child can bring a favorite toy or blanket along to the dentist for security. Ask if you will be able to accompany your child to the exam room at the initial visit. Don’t give your child too many details about dental procedures, as the dentist is better equipped to explain the procedure in terms suitable for your child’s age.
Determine how you will handle the situation if your child has a meltdown or is uncooperative at the dentist. While it can be tempting to pick a crying child up and leave, it may make the next visit even more difficult. The goal should be to reassure the child and complete the visit if possible.
Preventative dental care is an important part of overall health and will be a part of your child’s life throughout the childhood years and into adulthood. Encouraging your child to develop a healthy attitude about dental care will help them view going to the dentist as a normal part of life. Contact Accent Dental to discuss how you can help your child get started on the right road to good dental health.