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Visiting the Dentist: Helping Children Ease Their Worries

Kid in dental chair with mouth open

Dental phobia is common in both the young and the old. Often times this fear can lead to a ton of problems in the future due to avoidance and procrastination which eventually turns a small problem into a larger one. It really helps having a positive first dental experience. Our first experience will affect our level anxiety during those dental appointment for years to come. Here are some tips on how to prepare your child for their dental appointment to set them up for success:

Don’t transfer your fear of the dentist to the child
This is harder than it sounds. But yes, it is common for fearful parents to transfer their fear on to their children. Kids are smart, they pick up on our nervous behaviors and emotions. Don’t fuss over them or dwell on the idea of the dental appointment. Be nonchalant and matter of fact when talking to your child about their dental appointment.

Don’t scare your child
Believe it or not, this is common. We often have parents who tell their kids they are going to get a big needle. This does not help us, the dental team. Dealing with a child on the look-out for the big needle is difficult. When prepping your child for an appointment be totally emotionless and matter of fact and avoid scary details. You still want to be realistic and give them an idea of what to expect but leave out the details about the needle.

Choose a Dentist That Likes Seeing Children
Some dentists prefer not to see children or are used to dealing with a mainly adult clientele. Dealing with a dentist who sees a lot of kids may mean they have more experience and has acquired some good strategies when dealing with children.

Let Them Bring Their Favorite Friend
When the child is feeling stressed and anxious, holding his favorite stuffed toy may well provide a certain level of comfort; provided it does not hinder the dentist’s work.

Read books about seeing the dentist and Practice opening wide
Before seeing the dentist, it is a good idea to read stories that involve a trip to the dentist with them. Role playing also helps. Practice having your child open their mouth while you take a look inside. Using a q-tip to count their teeth is good to prepare for the first appointment. Let them also use the q-tip to count your teeth so you can show them how fun and relaxing it is!

Stay in the waiting room during treatment
After your child has had their first few introductory dental appointments and they have graduated to having their teeth polished or if they need treatment, please stay in the waiting room during the appointment. Children often act up when their parents are in the room and this makes treatment more difficult. Some parents transfer their nervousness onto their child during the appointment. It is amazing to see the improvement in cooperation and attitude in the young patient once the parent leaves the room.