How can you help your child overcome their fear of the dentist?
It’s natural for people to fear the unknown, especially children. Going to the dentist can be overwhelming for a child. There’s a large and unusual chair, lots of scary equipment that make noises and they put objects into your mouth. But dental hygiene plays a tremendous role in the health of your child’s life and you’ll want to get them on a good path at a young age. Here are some things that you can do to help overcome their fear of the dentist and reinforce positive dental experiences.
Children enjoy games and make believe. Playing a dentist game can be a wonderful ice-breaker before an appointment. Use a recliner or couch to take turns laying back on and undergo procedures like counting teeth and give smile ratings. If your “play dentist” games are fun, your child will have a positive sense about a real visit. There are also fun dental games on the market they can play by themselves or with friends and siblings that include Play-Doh Dr. Drill & Frill and Barbie Careers Dentist Play sets.
Children pick up on the vibes that adults give off. If you or someone in your circle has a fear of the dentists, kids may pick up on it. Avoid things like telling “war stories” about root canal of cavities that needed to be drilled and filled. That type of talk is like turning on an R-rated horror flick. Keep it positive and talk about the benefits of having healthy, strong teeth.
Early and Often
By starting your children off with early and regularly scheduled dental appointments they will grow accustomed to going. Long gaps between checkups tend to let the fear of the unknown creep into their imaginations. Keeping an appointment before the age of 1 or when the first tooth pops through is an excellent and positive initial step. Children take a certain pride about getting “big” like adults and that first tooth matters. Double dip by making it a good dental experience as well.
Rewards not Bribes
There’s a major difference between giving a child something to perform a task and rewarding them afterward. When you bribe a child to go to the dentist, the underlying idea is that the dentist is a negative and parents need to overcome that with a gift. On the other hand, a reward for being “big” and handling the visit well can be a source of pride for the child. In other words, they got a reward for their excellent behavior, not for overcoming a bad situation. The line is fine, but it’s there.
By taking subtle, positive steps to ensure that your child has good dental experiences, you’ll be setting them on a healthy course. Finding ways to be a good role model and talking about the importance of dental hygiene can make a difference that will last a lifetime.