Let’s face it, no one enjoys going to the dentist. However, for children it can be an incredible source of anxiety. Since there’s no way to avoid those visits (good oral health care is every bit as important for children as it is for adults), there are some steps you can take and things you can try to make going to the dentist as painless as possible – for your child and for you.
- Prepare them in advance. You may think that catching them off guard and tricking them by going to the dentist when they think they’re going somewhere else will work, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Prepare for the appointment by explaining what’s going to happen at the visit, and focusing on positive things – how he’ll get to see special pictures of his teeth and sit in a great big chair, and how clean his teeth will be after. Don’t go overboard on the detail and don’t say, “Everything is going to be fine,” because if he ends up having to have a filling or experiences some discomfort, he may lose trust in you and the dentist.
- Go to a pediatric dentist. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a pediatric dentist has an additional two to three years of specialty training following dental school, and limits his/her practice to treating children only.1 They are trained to care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs, so they have a thorough understanding of the needs of the littlest patients.
- Go early. Dental associations suggest your child should visit the dentist for the first time no later than age three. Some say as early as the appearance of a first tooth. Not only will starting early help children become used to the visits, but if they have some sort of dental emergency down the road it won’t be a completely new (and terrifying) experience.
- Prepare the dentist. If you know your child is very nervous, despite all your efforts, tell the dentist so he/she can help put your child at ease by being extra reassuring and explaining what’s going to happen next.
- Teach your child to self sooth. There are breathing techniques and visualization exercises that your child can do when they are in a stressful situation. Empowering them with these tools will help them feel like they have some level of control over their anxiety. Visit AboutParenting for a video demonstration of breathing techniques, and Anxiety Free Child for information on using guided imagery and meditation to help cope with anxiety.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing regularly doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to the dentist, but it does mean your visits are likely to be a little more pleasant. Visit the Canadian Dental Association for more information on keeping those little choppers clean and healthy.
You may never be able to make the dentist a fun place to be, but with a little advance preparation, you can give your child the confidence and reassurance they need to hop into the chair and open wide with as little fear as possible.
413718E CAN/US (05/16)