Dentist fear? Try These 5 Tips to Soothe Kids’ Nerves
Is your child suffering from dentist fear? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you can do to get them the care they need and make it fun.
Being afraid of the dentist is a normal, but preventable, experience for children.
Similar to a doctor’s visit, your child encounters many unknowns and can be discomforted by all of their unfamiliar surroundings.
With the right combination of practical, proactive routines and a smart strategy once the appointment day arrives, your child’s next trip to the dentist can be a breeze. See below for five tips on how to help your child suffering from dentist fear.
1. Introduce healthy attitudes early and reinforce often.
Although some popular advice would say children don’t need to go to the dentist until age 2-3, it’s important to introduce healthy attitudes and habits early in your child’s life.
One great way to get these positive attitudes started early in your child’s dental history is to establish a dental home for your child by their first birthday.
Choosing a dentist that specializes in pediatric dentistry guarantees your child is seeing a dentist and team that understands how to care for young smiles and can provide additional comfort for any nerves during their visit.
After you establish a dental home, take your child for routine check ups and cleanings once every six months.
Keeping up with regular cleanings and maintaining a dental home will help your child become more comfortable with the surroundings of the dentist’s office and the process of a visit to the dentist’s office.
2. Mind your words while talking about the dentist.
Most children have fears that can be triggered by a poor choice of words. If your child is sensitive to shots, strangers, pain or other elements associated with the dentist, avoid mentioning these words in relation to the dentist as much as possible.
Emphasize positive words and phrases when talking about the dentist. Strong, healthy smiles are the goal of each visit to the dentist, so using these words can change your child’s dentist fear to excitement.
Talk through routine cleanings and out-of-the-ordinary procedures, such as a tooth extraction, to let your child know what to expect before you get to the office. Again, avoiding using negative or scary language as much as possible.
Take a few minutes to explain any unfamiliar dental terms in language your child will understand. This will help them feel more at ease in the dentist’s office and encourage them to communicate with the dentist and staff.
3. Prioritize dental health in your child’s everyday routine.
Practice good dental hygiene with your child every day. Brushing, flossing and a healthy diet are the non-negotiable foundations of a healthy smile.
Incorporating regular check-ups can become a natural extension of healthy habits your child practices daily, soothing any fears they could have about their next visit to the dentist.
Being proactive about your child’s dental health will help you avoid unnecessary tooth troubles, which can lead to additional time spent at the dentist and more fear dentist fear.
Don’t hesitate to bring the dentist into play time through books, toys and/or videos.
“Pretend” with your child, letting them be the dentist and making their best dentist office sounds. Use positive reinforcements to show that they understand the environment and there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist’s office.
4. Set a good example for your children.
Children are very perceptive of their family’s attitudes and moods. When talking about the dentist at home, keep the attitude positive.
Just as you ensure your child practices good dental hygiene every day, be sure to show them you are also keeping up with your brushing, flossing, and healthy eating routines.
If possible, have your children attend routine cleanings and appointments at your dentist’s office. They will be able to watch you go through the process and see you have no fear of the dentist, making them more confident at their next appointment.
A positive attitude around all aspects of dental health will help your child have less anxiety about their next visit to the dentist and show them that it is a normal, healthy part of life.
If you are an adult suffering from dentist fear, be sure to practice healthy relaxation techniques and request support from your family or dental office to keep a positive association to the experience for your child as much as possible.
5. Use relaxation and distraction to soothe acute dentist fear.
If you have tried all of these preventative measures and your child is still afraid of going to their regular check-ups or an upcoming dental procedure, it is time to consider reactive options immediately surround their appointment.
- Before the dentist appointment, provide your child with an appropriate amount of warning before their appointment. This can vary based on the age and sentiment of the child.
- Avoid surprising your child with a trip to the dentist, as this can cause unnecessary acute stress for both your child and the other patients in the waiting room.
- When you’ve arrived for the appointment, introduce your child to the office staff and utilize any support they are able to offer you prior to the beginning of the appointment.
- Waiting in the waiting room can be anxiety inducing, even for adults. Bring activities to distract your child, or consider taking a walk outside of the office to avoid restless, squirmy bodies.
- Once the appointment begins, your pediatric dentist will do their best to relieve any dentist fear or anxiety that your child is still experiencing.
- After the appointment ends, consider treating your child to a trip to their favorite park or a small token for their good behavior, manners and bravery throughout their trip to the dentist.
- Ask follow up questions to identify or demystify any tricky parts of the appointment and discuss any upcoming procedures.
Remember–going to the dentist is a healthy and normal part of your child’s routine.
Although there are plenty of ways to soothe a child who is afraid of the dentist, many of these techniques are proactive rather than reactive.
Establishing healthy dental habits and attitudes early with make your child more confident and comfortable with their dental office visits.
Choosing the right dental home for your child is especially useful in alleviating dental anxiety. Contact our team today to learn more about our pediatric dental services.
Do you have any questions about childhood dentist fear? Ask away in the comments below.