The dentist is normal for adults who have been going their whole lives, but it can be very scary for small children who don't really understand what is going on. No parent wants to see their child afraid, so you can follow these tips to alleviate your child's fear of the dentist as much as possible:
1. Make Dentist Visits Part of the Regular Routine
If you make sure to take your child to the dentist regularly, it will become a more normal part of his or her routine. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child should be taken to the dentist for the first time either when the first tooth appears or by the child's first birthday, whichever comes first. Your child's dentist can tell you how often your child should return to the office based on how his or teeth look each visit. At minimum, you should take your child every six months.
2. Choose a Pediatric Dentist
You might just want to take your child to the dentist you go to, but there are benefits to choosing a dentist that specifically treats children. Pediatric dentists are trained to work with children, so they know the words and actions to use that will ease the fears of your child.
3. Explain Everything Beforehand
One of the biggest things that can cause fear at the dentist is not knowing what will happen. You should carefully explain to your child what is going to happen during each visit so he or she will know what to expect. You can even make it into a game at home! Set up a pretend dentist chair for your child to sit in and pretend to examine his or her teeth. Make sure you keep on a smile during the game so your child associates the dentist with happy thoughts!
Once you get to the office, quietly tell the dentist your child is a little worried about his or her visit. If possible, ask the dentist to show the tools he or she is going to use to your child and explain what each of them is for. This can be very reassuring to a worried boy or girl.
4. Avoid Pain Words
There is no need to tell a child a procedure will not be painful unless he or she specifically asks. By saying something like "This won't hurt" or "This isn't painful," you are putting the idea of pain in the child's head. Your child won't know to associate dental appointments with pain if you don't teach him or her to!
5. Stay Calm
When a child freaks out, some parents automatically begin to panic. By doing so, you are only reinforcing your child's fear. Do not overreact if your child cries or throws a tantrum. The dentist is used to it! Instead, just stay calm and listen to what the dentist requests of you and your child.
6. Ask Family Members for Help
The easiest way to give your child a fear of the dentist is to show them you are anxious at the dentist's office. If you're not sure you can keep your anxiety at bay, ask another family member to take your child to the dentist.
Fear of the dentist is normal, but it is also easy to alleviate if you follow the right steps. By ignoring these tips, your child's fear can extend into adulthood. Be sure to protect your child's lifetime oral hygiene by teaching him or her early that the dentist is nothing to be afraid of.
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