Little Smiles: Curing Your Child's Fright of Dentists

You’ll be looking a long time before you find someone who actually enjoys visiting the dentist. While it’s something intrusive and uncomfortable about the whole process, we know very well that it needs to be done - kind of like spending half our monthly income on paying rent.

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Your children, on the other hand, don’t feel the same sense of relief of having something over and done with, and the thought of going to the dentist can be a lot scarier to some children than others. Make the hour a bit easier for them, as well as your dentist, by using these handy tips for helping them overcome their fright.

They’ll smile a lot brighter afterward, that’s for sure.

Start early

The sooner you get your children to the dentist, the better. Not just because they’ll be able to take care of any dental problems immediately, although this is also an excellent reason, but because it’s easier for them to get used to it when they start young.

Start the annual visits at around age one or when you notice the sign of their very first tooth. The experience won’t seem as overwhelming by the time they reach school age, and they’ll also be in a much better position for taking properly care of their teeth.

Don’t make a big deal out of it

Try not to give too many details about the visit to the dentist. Some parents who are just as nervous about booking their own appointments tend to make it a bit worse for their children, even if it’s unintentional, as they share details of past experiences.

It could go the other way around too when the parents make it seem like everything will be over with after five minutes - and the reality ends up being quite different. Loaded words such as ‘hurt’ and ‘pain’ are also smart to avoid; let the dentist do the talking and allow your child to stay calm and comfortable.

Keep it simple and without too much details. A pediatric dentist is usually quite good at doing this, by the way, as they’ll chat their way through the session and keep your child’s mind occupied - so there’s no need for those details before the visit, really.

Play pretend

Play pretend is an excellent idea for particularly young children who didn’t go through their first dentist visit when they were one. All you need is a toothbrush and a sense of humor; tell them to open wide, count their teeth, and pretend to be cleaning them. You should avoid any drilling noises, obviously, and still avoid any negative words that could make your child scared.

Give them the toothbrush afterward and let them have a look at your mouth. Although you won’t necessarily clean their teeth and they certainly won’t clean yours, that’s not really the point - the idea is to give your child an image of what going to the dentist will be like.

If you don’t want anyone to inspect your teeth, let alone your child, you can arrange a play pretend session with their stuffed animals or a doll. It’s all about preparation for the real world and feeling comfortable when they’re in the actual situation.

But don’t take your child with you

Some parents choose to include their children in their own visits to the dentist, but experts say this might not be the best idea. Although their intentions are good, the sterile look of a dental office for adults can be a lot more unsettling than their first visit to the pediatric dentist, and their impression may just increase their worries.

Plus, if you’re a bit uncomfortable in the chair yourself, it’s quite likely that your child will notice it on your face and body language. The procedures you may have to go through are probably a bit more intense than what your child’s teeth require, and the visit gives them a skew perception of what their own session will look like.

When not even mommy or daddy feels safe in the dentist chair, how are they supposed to relax and feel comfortable?

Remember that it’s perfectly normal for children to cry a bit, wiggle, and whine when they’re visiting the dentist. Stay calm, don’t make a big deal out of it, and everything will be over with as soon as possible.

They get to enjoy that toy at the end too, and can show it off to all their friends who probably picked the same one.


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