Going to the dentist on a regular basis is essential for good oral health, but it is not uncommon for young children to feel uncomfortable or have a fear of dental appointments. By nature many kids become scared when they do not understand what is going on, and that fear can be escalated if they have ever had a bad experience at a dentist's office.
As a parent, you can help put your child at ease about future dental appointments by doing the following:
Visit a Pediatric Dentist
If your child is wary about visiting the dentist, you may want to consider seeking the services of a pediatric dentist. The atmosphere and care at a pediatric dentistry practice is designed for young patients, and many children feel more comfortable when seeing a dentist and staff who specializes in treating kids. Most areas have pediatric dentists, and it is well worth the effort of finding one if it will help your child feel better about getting his or her teeth cleaned and examined.
Avoid Using Negative Words When Speaking About the Dentist
Many parents mean well, but they make comments such as "don't be scared, everything will be fine" or "it is okay, it won't hurt" when talking to children who have a fear of the dentist. While these comments sound normal, kids focus on the word "scared" or "hurt", which can make them more apprehensive about their upcoming dental appointment.
Instead of trying to reassure your child with statements that may contain negative words, try focusing on mentioning how good it will feel to have nice, clean teeth, and talk about how the dentist will help keep his or her teeth healthy.
Make Going to the Dentist a Positive Experience
While every dentist appointment may not be fun, you can help create a positive experience for your child. Make going to the dentist a positive experience by including special activities before and after the appointment. For example, you can take your child out for breakfast before an appointment, and then provide a small toy or special healthy treat after seeing the dentist. These small things can help a child build a positive connotation when thinking about dental appointments, which can really help a fearful child feel better about dental exams.
Focus on Great Oral Hygiene at Home
Most dental appointments consist of teeth cleaning, an exam of the teeth and mouth by a dentist, and possibly x-rays. In most cases these appointments are relatively low stress, but having cavities filled, or having to undergo other invasive dental treatments can be stressful for a child. You can help prevent more invasive treatments by emphasizing the importance of brushing and flossing from a young age. Great oral hygiene can help prevent cavities, so you child will not have to go through the process of having cavities filled.