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Dentistry for Kids: How Children Can Enjoy the Dentist

Dentistry for kids is no easy task – especially for parents. Luckily we’re sharing what you need to know to prepare your kid for a visit – and to make it fun!

There is a word in the English language for having a phobia of dentists, but there isn’t a word for having an undying love of dentistry. 8% of the population actually avoids going to the dentist because of fear.

That’s not to say dentistry is a bad thing at all. Even if some adults don’t enjoy going, it’s great (and vital) for your health and most dentists and their staff are wonderful people. It can and should be a great experience.

You could probably say we mostly fear the possible news of something wrong (and some minor pain) with our teeth than we do the actual experience. And the bill.

But for children, the fear makes much more sense. Going to the dentist is one of their first experiences where they are on their own, without you or another child around.

Dentist work can be painful. There can be loud noises. A stranger has his fingers and sharp objects out of the child’s sight and in the child’s mouth.

But dentistry for kids (and adults) doesn’t have to be scary. It can actually be fun – if you let it! Break the chain and chance of your child disliking the dentist with a few simple methods.

Break the chain and chance of your child disliking the dentist with a few simple methods.

Start ’em Young

Oral health becomes important as soon as the child begins growing teeth. It’s recommended they begin seeing a dentist when they turn one or when the first tooth appears.

The younger they start, the more accustomed they will become to the routine and environment.

It’s even better if you stick with the same dentist. They are no longer a scary stranger, but someone they recognize and remember.

There is little chance of a fear developing when they are older, as nothing is new or unknown.

Pretend Visit

Make it into a fun game by doing a pretend visit at home. Your dentist is going to explain every detail of the procedure to your child, but introduce them to it first.

Your child is comfortable with you, not with a stranger. They will be less anxious if they have some idea of what is going to happen.

Have them take a seat in a chair. Explain some of the basics of what the dentist will do, but keep it simple, happy, and fun.

Touch and count their teeth with their toothbrush. Hold up a mirror, and let them look at their own teeth.

Then let them “play dentist” on a stuffed animal or doll. It makes it fun for them and reiterates that they listened and understood what you told them.

Then be brave and allow yourself to be their patient as they look at your teeth. They will find comfort in knowing you will be going through the same thing and are so relaxed with it (please pretend to be if not).

There are also lots of children’s books that deal with the subject of dentistry.

Find one at your local library and read it to them a few nights before their first appointment. Answer any questions they may have about some of the pictures and their teeth.

Keep Them Informed About Dentistry for Kids

One of the worst things you can do is spring a dentist appointment onto your child with little warning. Prepare them and give them time to make their own mental preparations.

Talk to them about the importance of oral hygiene and continually remind them why brushing and flossing is so important. Stay positive when you speak.

Tell them their mouth will be cleaner and feel better after their dentist appointment, and the dentist will make their smile strong.

Avoid any negative words or tones. Don’t say “shot,” “hurt,” or “pain.” But don’t lie to them if they ask about it either.

Once they find out the truth, if you lied, they may distrust you and the dentist for the following appointments.

You can take them to one of your own appointments (unless you get anxious yourself). Let them see the process with you and witness first hand there is nothing to worry about.

Let Them Bring Their Own Comfort Item

If your child has a favorite toy, book, blanket, or game, let them bring it to the appointment.

Studies show a security object can serve as a substitute in a child’s eyes for their mother or father. While you may have prepared them for the dentist and procedure, they still may be frightened from being alone.

It’s a good idea to hold their hand in the waiting room if they appear anxious. Then when they head back to the room, your hand can be replaced with the comfort item.

Don’t Bribe but Praise

It’s important you don’t persuade your child to see the dentist with bribery. Kids are smarter than we think, they can easily question why they need a bribe.

“If Mommy and Daddy are offering me something I want to go through with this dentist thing, then this dentist must be a bad experience.”

You can, however, associate a day of a scheduled appointment with another positive experience and do something afterward, regardless of the outcome.

Don’t say: “If you do well at the dentist, we can get ice cream afterward.” Instead say something like, “We will go to the dentist, and then afterward, we will go to the toy store.”

Notice how you aren’t bribing for good behavior, but instead, are giving the child a comforting thought to associate with days they see the dentist.

In a sense, you are getting only the positive benefits of a bribe without actually bribing.

Praise is the always best option for positive reinforcement.

Let your child know how proud you are that they took good care of their teeth. Tell them how wonderful their smile looks after the checkup.

Whether you are currently looking for a dentist or have a family dentist you have known for years, prepare your kids.

Not only will they not be afraid, they just might enjoy it and actually have a little fun. That’s something a few adults are going to therapy for in the hopes of achieving some day.