Teaching young children about the importance of good dental hygiene is a crucial task for all parents, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park (for both the kids and the parents). After all, training children to brush their teeth and observe other proper dental care habits at home is one thing — but taking them to the dentist’s office to have their teeth examined and to undergo any necessary treatments is another thing entirely.
Being told to sit and stay on a dentist’s chair, having a light focused on their faces, and having a strange man or woman peeking into and working on their mouths can be too much for small children to take. To prevent your kid from experiencing anxiety (mild or severe), during a visit to the dentist, there are things you can do to make the first few visits a more positive experience for him. Here’s how to support a child who is scared of the dentist:
- Start their dental visits early.
Building a routine can create a huge impact on a child’s ability to grow comfortable with an activity, so it’s best if he can get used to seeing the dentist early on. According to dental experts, children can be brought to the dentist as soon as teeth begin to appear or by the time their first birthday rolls around.
- Decide to bring your child to a pediatric dentist.
You can choose to have a general dentist to see your child, but you’ll soon discover that many parents prefer a pediatric dentist because in addition to obtaining the necessary expertise in dental care, these professionals are specifically trained to handle young patients. This means that they know how to work with nervous and fearful children, and their dental offices are designed to be especially kid-friendly — there are stuffed animals available if patients need comforting, sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glaring overhead lights, music and videos playing to keep them entertained, and a whole staff trained to help the little patients happy and relaxed.
- Take your child to meet the dentist and see the clinic before his actual dental appointment.
The dental office will be a strange environment for your child, so aim to bring him around some days before the actual appointment so he can see the dentist, meet the staff, explore the office, and check out the dentist’s chair. This way, he can have an idea of what to expect and feel less surprised or alarmed. Also check out their website with your kids.
- During the next visits, opt to have the same dental hygienist perform the routine checkups.
These staff members perform a large part of the regular checkup processes, so if you can, arrange to have the same one around every time your child pays a visit. Seeing a friendly face can do much to put a child at ease whenever he comes to get his teeth examined.