There’s no denying that most kids fear dentists. Maybe, there’s something about dental chairs that make them look like torture machines even in the young ones’ eyes. Or perhaps, the way that dentists are portrayed in kiddie shows stir up the undeserved reputation that dentists have among kids. Whatever makes children feel uncomfortable and anxious in the presence of dentists can ultimately ruin the dentalcare experience for children. If it goes on uncontrolled, your child’s oral health could suffer.
As a parent, you must know that healthy teeth and good oral hygiene are vital for your child’s overall health. While eating healthy foods and observing proper ways of brushing teeth can help prevent cavities, there are dental illnesses among kids that require professional help. In other words, you can’t do it alone as a parent when it comes to your child’s dental health. Sooner or later, you need to set an appointment with a dentist for kids.
Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. As mentioned, most kids dread going to the dentist. With that fear comes emotional stress, frantic cries, and tantrums. The result would be a wasted trip to the clinic. Save yourself, your child, and the dentist from such an unproductive experience. The trick is to make your child feel calm and relaxed when coming in for checkups or dental work. Below are ten surefire tips to help you do that.
Make Your Child Feel Comfortable At The Dentist
1. Give Your Child The Right Start
Before calling the dentist, parents need to make it comfortable for their kids to have their mouths and gums touched by someone. You should start training them for their day at the dentist before their first teeth even begin to form.
While still in their infant years, you can use a piece of sterile cloth and massage their gums. Aside from stimulating the growth of healthy gum tissues, massaging the soft lining in the mouth can help babies get used to the sensation of getting their inner mouths touched.
Upon reaching their toddler years and the first few milk teeth become visible, parents should introduce children to the habit of brushing teeth or even flossing. Using baby toothbrushes will also help kids feel comfortable about having dental instruments in their mouths. When the time comes, your child will be less likely to feel anxious as the dentist performs work in your child’s mouth using metal tools.
2. Make Dental Visits A Part Of Growing Up
So, when can you start making dental appointments for your child? Experts recommend that children should see a dentist as early as their first birthday. Regular checkups with the dentist will ensure that your child will have strong and healthy teeth down the line. But more than that, you will also help your child become familiar with the process of dental visits and oral hygiene.
To ensure that going to the dentist becomes a part of your child’s memory, you can take pictures or even videos of their moments in the dentist’s chair. You can show the photos and videos as proof that your child doesn’t need to be worried or scared of dental checkups because they’ve already done it before.
3. Explain The Process In Simple Terms
When it comes to dental checkups and oral hygiene, it pays to treat your child like an adult. That means explaining to them why they need to go to the dentist regularly. Make it clear why it’s vital to take good care of their teeth and gums.
On the day that they need to go to the dentist, it also helps to tell them what to expect. It’s best if you can reiterate that the dentist is a friend that your child can trust. Undoubtedly, pediatric dentists are trained to talk to their young patients, but they need all the help they can get to make a child calm while seated in the dental chair.
Keep in mind not to go overboard when explaining things to your child. You don’t have to explain the entire process or describe all the dentist’s tools. Doing so will overwhelm your child with unnecessary details and risk making the whole experience more intimidating. Keep it simple and easy. That way your child will feel comfortable at the dentist.
4. Make Preparations For Yourself, Too
Your child isn’t the only one who needs to prepare for the visit to the dentist. As the parent, you also need to ready yourself for the appointment. Often, parents taking their children to the dentist for the first time are more anxious than their kids. Some parents tend to create more jitters out of the whole experience and unintentionally scare their kids out of the dental clinic.
Remember, your child will need your reassurance and support. If the young ones sense that their parents are afraid or hesitant about taking them to the dentist, the children will take that as an indication also to feel scared. So, don’t stress out the first and subsequent visits to the dentist. Pediatric dentists are trained professionals that you and your child can trust.
5. Use Positive Words
Parents must avoid using words implying that dental treatments can be a painful experience. It will only serve to escalate your child’s anxiety further. Sure, you may have experienced pain and even bleeding during your own visit to the dentist. But it’s best to let the dentist be the one to explain or introduce to your child the rudiments of dental health. It will be more rewarding for everyone involved.
If you must talk to your child about what takes place in the dental chair, stick to positive vocabulary. Emphasize words like healthy, strong, and clean. Whatever you say, do not mention terms like pain, scary, sharp tools, hurt, or even anesthesia. It’s not to say that you need to lie to your child. Instead, it means putting the whole experience of going to the dentist in a positive light.
6. Demonstrate With Visual Aids
Kids love pictures and drawings. You can use that to make your child feel comfortable at the dentist. Instead of just telling your kid about what a dentist does and what happens on a dental visit, you can use visual aids with colorful illustrations.
There are many children’s books and free online resources about dentists and dental care. These can help encourage kids to visit the dentist and take care of their oral health.
7. Take Your Child To A Pretend Dental Visit
If you think visual aids are not enough to make your child feel comfortable with the dentist, you can up the ante by a pre-appointment tour of the dentist’s clinic. It’s essentially a dry run for the actual dental appointment. The goal is to allow children to become familiar with the dental office. So, kids will be less likely to feel overwhelmed or shocked when the day for the dental work comes.
Pediatric dentists are aware of how nervous kids feel about coming in for checkups or treatments. It’s why most dentists allow pretending visits. They know these can elicit trust from the children. As a result, their young patients will feel more relaxed during the actual procedure.
8. Mild Sedation Required For Some Procedures
If all else fails, sedation is the answer to make your child relaxed and feel comfortable while at the dental chair. Dentists may use oral or intravenous sedatives. Another option would be a nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Sedation during dental procedures is safe for kids and adults. It’s part of standard dental practices to control pain and manage anxiety among patients, especially during complicated procedures.
9. Reward Your Child For Good Behavior
Don’t promise your child a trip to the ice cream parlor or a big lollipop after the dental procedure. It will sound like bribing, and some kids will be wondering why you need to bribe them if a visit to the dentist is harmless and fun. They’ll suspect that there’s a catch.
Instead, reward them just the same but without promising anything beforehand. If your child remains calm and displays good or acceptable behavior throughout the procedure, a giant lollipop or a quick drop by the ice cream parlor should be in order. After all, it took a lot of courage for your child to endure every minute on the dental chair. The next time you come in for a dental check or treatment, your child will know what to expect afterward and will be more likely to behave as expected.
10. Just Be There For Your Child
A dental visit can be terrifying enough as it is. And most, if not all, kids feel anxious and nervous when they get separated from their parents. So, imagine how worse it could get for your young one if you’re not physically present during a visit to the dentist. When making appointments, make sure to set it on a date that you’re free. The next best option for parents who can’t make it to the appointment is to have someone that their kids can trust accompany them during the dental procedure.
Regularly taking children to the dentist is crucial in maintaining healthy teeth and good oral hygiene. But such an appointment can be a scary and stressful prospect for most kids. Fear and anxiety can cause children to misbehave while on the dental chair. Consequently, the checkup or any procedure will be disrupted. In a worst-case scenario, the child will loathe going to the dentist. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your child feel comfortable. Using the tips mentioned above, a trip to the dentist will be more productive and enjoyable for kids of all ages.