If you’ve ever felt nervous before a dental appointment, you’re not alone. Going to the dentist can be intimidating for many adults, so it’s no surprise that the experience is often anxiety-inducing for kids. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in an unfamiliar environment, especially when you don’t know what to expect.
If your child is worried about going to the dentist, you might be tempted to postpone their appointment until their fears subside. However, it’s important to build positive oral health habits early in your kid’s life, and attending routine dental checkups is an important part of that.
Instead of delaying your child’s dental appointment, you can make the experience a bit easier for them by helping them prepare. Consider the following tips to help kids feel more comfortable at the dentist:
1. Start Early
Bringing kids to the dentist as early as possible is an excellent way to help familiarize them with the environment. Many dentists begin seeing children for checkups when they are as young as one year old or as soon as their first teeth begin to emerge. At this age, your child is still too young to sit by themselves, and you holding them provides a sense of security. When they have grown old enough to sit by themselves in the dentist’s chair, your child will have had positive experiences in the dental office and an existing connection with the dentist.
2. Avoid the Gritty Details
Your child doesn’t need to know how the dentist will drill their teeth or fill their cavities. When you discuss dental procedures with your kid, keep it simple to avoid overwhelming them. Just let your child know that the dentist checks to see if their teeth and gums are healthy. When it comes to explaining dental tools and procedures, leave it to your dentist, who has the training and experience to explain dental concepts in a kid-friendly manner.
3. Leave the Explaining to the Dentist
Dentists are trained on how to handle all patients, including kids. Allow the doctor to introduce your child to common dental tools and explain the steps of routine dental checkups and treatments. They will have experience using clear, child-appropriate language to illustrate dental procedures in a reassuring way.
When the dentist talks to your child about what to expect during their appointment, it helps your child learn to trust them. Building a positive relationship between your child and their dentist is a critical component of making dental appointments more comfortable.
4. Do a Mock Dental Visit
By acting out the step-by-step process of going to the dentist, you can help your child learn what to expect and feel less apprehensive about going to the dentist. Every detail of the dental appointment can become part of your mock production, including greeting the reception staff and checking in, sitting down in the dentist’s chair, and talking about your current oral hygiene habits.
Take turns with your child while playing pretend, alternating the roles of dentist and patient. Compliment your child’s dental hygiene and pretend to examine their teeth with a clean spoon. In addition to setting expectations for their real dental checkup, this can help your child understand the role of the dentist and the importance of dental appointments.
5. Use Positive Reinforcement
After their dental visit, compliment your child for a job well done. Acknowledge the courage they showed during the appointment and consider offering them a special reward. Offering incentives can help boost their confidence and improve their attitude towards future dental visits.
It’s important for you and your family to have regular dental checkups, even if you’re not experiencing any oral health issues. It’s normal for kids to feel nervous before visiting the dentist, but it’s important not to delay these crucial early appointments. Try out some of the tips above before your child’s next appointment, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist with questions or concerns about making dental visits more comfortable.