Not all kids enjoy going to the dentist. In fact, if you mention the word dentist, you’ll likely get an angry tantrum or a waterfall of tears.
You know regular visits to the dentists are necessary, and you don’t want to keep going through these pre-dentist drama sessions forever.
How do you change your child’s attitude towards the dentist from one of fear to one of excitement? How do you get your child to love going to the dentist?
Make it a point to take your child to the dentist for the first time by the time they turn one. The earlier you take your child to the dentist, the quicker he or she will adjust and learn there is nothing to be afraid of.
The longer you wait to take your child in to see the dentist, the more time elapses for your child to develop negative, false thoughts and conceptions of the dentist. This in turn will increase the likelihood of resistance from your child.
Have a Positive Attitude
When talking about the dentist with your child, be careful of what you say. Avoid making the dentist sound like the “bad guy” and avoid using unpleasant words such as “pain,” “drill,” and “shot.”
It is highly recommended you take your child to a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have specialized training for young patients which includes methods to calm their fears. Many pediatric dentists have their own kid-friendly vocabulary that avoid using negative words or phrases and uses positive, non-threatening language instead.
Do a Practice Run
Before your child’s appointment, role play with your child, with you pretending to be the dentist and your child the patient. Ask your child to “open wide” and count and brush their teeth. Let them see their smile in a mirror afterward.
You can encourage your child to role play with a doll or stuffed animal where you child can play the role of dentist.
Make a Pre-Visit Appointment
A week or two before your child’s dentist appointment, bring your child into the dental office and have him or her meet the dentist and staff. Your child will also see the inside of the office and know what to expect when attending the appointment.
Let the Dentist Work
It is natural for young children to squirm, cry, fuss and throw a tantrum when a stranger is working in their mouths. Resist the impulse to scold your child or hover over your child during the dental exam and cleaning. A pediatric dentist will be accustomed to the nervous behavior of children. Let the dentist handle the situation. It may be better for you to stay at a distance during the appointment.
Don’t Take Your Child to Your Dental Appointment
While it may seem like a good idea for your child to tag along during your dental appointment and see there is nothing to fear about the dentist, this is a bad idea.
Unless your dentist is at a family dentist, the harsh and boring surroundings of an adult dental office may feed the dental fears your child already has.
You may also be nervous about going to the dentist because you got yet another crown at the last visit.
Children are quick to pick up on your fears and they will come to dread the dentist because you do.
Emphasize Good Oral Hygiene
Tell your child that visits to the dentist are necessary, not optional and that the dentist is there to make their teeth strong and healthy so they can eat and have a beautiful smile.
Also emphasize good at-home dental hygiene and tell them that their hygiene routine helps the dentist care for their mouth.
Make it Familiar
Allow your child to bring along their favorite book, toy or stuffed animal to the dentist office. Having something familiar around will help your child feel comfortable and more relaxed.
If your child behaves during their dental appointment, reward them afterwards. You can take them to a park, movie, museum or arcade or you can give them a healthy snack, toy or sticker.
Children shouldn’t fear going to the dentist. The sooner you’re able to dispel the scary misconceptions of the dentist, the better.
Marshall, Shofner & Phan is a family practice dental office that understands the fears young patients may have. Our friendly staff and inviting office will help your child feel at ease.
If your child needs their first check-up or if it has been over 6 months since their last appointment, contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child.