For most of us, going to the dentist isn’t exactly a fun experience. For a child, though, it can be downright terrifying. Spending an hour or so in the dentist’s chair with a stranger poking around your mouth, not to mention the discomfort of going under the drill, can make nearly any child want to avoid the experience.
If your child suffers from a fear of going to the dentist there are some things you can do to help them cope:
There are dozens of children’s books designed to teach your child about what happens at the dentist. Buy one or check one out from the local library. It might be helpful to act out a play visit at home. A dental mirror makes a good prop to help familiarize them with what to expect.
Stay upbeat about your child’s visit, and avoid talking about what might occur. Talking about treatments such as fillings is likely to cause unnecessary anxiety. On the other hand, if you tell your child the visit won’t include those procedures and that’s what ends up happening, he or she will likely end up losing trust in both you and the dentist. Instead, talk about how the dentist will check to make sure your child has strong, healthy teeth.
There are plenty of dentists out there who focus on treating children, and they likely have some tried-and-true procedures for making the process as easy as possible. It might be worthwhile to visit the practice before the appointment to help your child get used to what they can expect.
Although it may be tempting to promise a treat in return for a trouble-free visit, that may be counter-productive. Your child may end up wondering what could be so bad about the experience that it warrants a new toy or a trip to an ice-cream parlor.
Dentists who specialize in treating children have seen their fair share of tantrums, so don’t be embarrassed if that’s what happens. Follow the dentist’s lead; they might ask you to stay in the examination room and hold the child’s hand, or they may ask you to stay in the waiting room.
Make sure your child understands that it’s the dentist’s job to make sure they have a bright, beautiful smile, and that a trip to the dentist is part of staying healthy. Congratulate them once the appointment is over to help instill a sense of pride in having taken care of their teeth.