Did you know that 5 to 6% of the American population is scared of the dentist, and about 16% of school-age children fear dentists? It’s no secret, children are downright terrified of dentists, and who can blame them? All the sharp, pointy, and whirring equipment at the dentist’s office don’t make things any better.
It’s completely normal for your kid to be scared of the dentist; you probably were too at that young age. In fact, there’s a whole term for this fear, and it’s called dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is perfectly normal, and sooner or later, your kids will grow out of it.
In the meantime, it’s up to you to come up with ways to make your kids relax when it’s time to visit the dentist. It won’t be easy, but it’s not rocket science either. If your kid has a severe case of dental anxiety, we’re here to help.
In today’s post, we’ll be highlighting a few tricks you can employ to ease your kid’s dental anxiety.
Table of Contents
1. Have Them Visit the Dentist at a Young Age
If it’s not too late, arrange a dentist visit for your child while they’re still very young. Arrange a dentist visit as soon as your child gets their first tooth or no later than their second birthday. Although your child won’t remember much of it, the visit will be very informational and address dental issues early on.
An early dentist visit is important because it allows your child to form a relationship with the dentist. Your child will also feel more comfortable around the dentist and inside the dentist’s office. Over time, the dentist will slowly introduce the instruments to help your child become more familiar with them.
By the time your kids are toddlers, they’ll have zero qualms about visiting the dentist. You’ll also help them develop good dental habits at an early stage. For instance, you’ll help address thumb-sucking, which affects one in every five children under the age of 5.
2. Go to a Pediatric or Family Dentist
Ever heard of a pediatric dentist? As the name connotes, a pediatric dentist is a dentist who specializes in addressing children’s dental problems. Pediatric dentists go through an additional two to three years of training to learn about children’s oral health.
What’s more, pediatric dentists don’t just learn about oral health; they also learn about child behavior and psychology, among other pediatric dentistry subjects. This enables them to communicate effectively with your kids and also keep the kids at ease. Pediatric dentists use stuff like distractions, balloons, or positive reinforcement to help the kids relax during their dentist visits.
If you can’t find a pediatric dentist, you can opt for a family dentist instead. Family dentists are like general dentists but specialize in children. A family dentist addresses oral health concerns in every stage of your child’s life, from a baby to a teenager.
If you find a good family dentist, you best stick to them. That’s because the family dentist will be the go-to dentist for your kid’s dental problems all through adulthood. Your child will have no problem visiting a pediatric or family dentist.
3. Be a Good Example
Let’s face it; no one likes visiting the dentist, even grown-ups. However much you despise the dentist’s office, don’t let it show. You need to be a great role model to your kids to help them relax when it’s their turn to visit the dentist.
If you’re scheduled for a root canal, don’t show any apprehension or nervousness in front of your kids. Instead, put on a brave face and talk about it in a positive and upbeat way. Even if you’re a little scared, do your best not to show your kids that you are.
4. Teach Them the Importance of the Dentist and Good Oral Health
Randomly talk about the dentist and how important it is for your kids to maintain proper oral hygiene. Remember to be as fun as you can about it to keep them from getting bored. Remind them how important it is to have healthy teeth and gums and why germs are evil and nasty.
You need to do this a few months before the dentist’s visit to build a good picture of the dentist’s office. Kids have a vivid imagination, so make sure you use the right words and visuals for the best results. Steer clear of scary words like “sharp,” pain,” and “hurt.”
However, don’t sugarcoat it too much; at least tell them what they should expect and make it look like a good thing. Let them know that they’re doing an incredible thing by visiting the dentist and having their teeth checked out.
5. Play Dentist
Play a pretend game of dentist to help address your kid’s fear and prepare them accordingly for the visit. Playing dentist is a fun activity that also helps to strengthen the bond between you and the child.
Get out their toothbrushes and have them sit on a chair and play out what happens in the dentist’s office. Act out everything that happens in the dentists’ office, then let them play the dentist after. Again, no mention of sharp and pointy objects unless you sugarcoat them with a sprinkle of fun.
6. Positive Reinforcement
By positive reinforcement, we don’t mean bribing your kids with toys or candy for going through the entire process. Positive reinforcement means reassuring your kids of their bravery and their goodness for caring about their oral health. If you bribe your kids, they’ll notice something’s up because otherwise, there would be no need to bribe them.
Positive words and affirmations will help relax your kids. Ensure you reward or congratulate them if they go to the dentist without squirming.
Kids Scared of the Dentist? Not Any More!
Most kids are scared of the dentist, but yours don’t have to be. With the above tips, your kids will be more than relaxed for their next dentist visit. Just remember to remind them to maintain good oral habits to avoid frequent visits. For more informative content, be sure to check out the other posts here on our site.