Many children are afraid of going to the dentist. Can you blame them? Many adults also shudder at the thought of having dental work. But given that regular visits to the dentist are a necessity for dental health, it helps to be able to calm children’s fears of the dental chair as soon as possible.
If you’re a parent with a dentist-phobic child, consider the following:
Make the Quest for Great Teeth an Adventure
Children very rarely visit the dentist for serious dental matters. Mostly, the visits are for routine check-ups, cleaning or perhaps to pull out a loose milk tooth to make space for a permanent one. If parents can make these milestones exciting by attaching a rewarding activity to the dental visit, then visiting the dentist might even become something that the child looks forward to. For instance, arrange it so that every dental visit ends with a trip to the dollar store (“for being cooperative”) or a trip to the movie store to purchase something special for that night, or some other fun and appealing prize or reward.
Be a Good Dental Patient Yourself
The best way to show that there is nothing to fear from the dentist is to let your child watch as you undergo your check-up. Be a model patient! Don’t fret, fuss (or scream!) as you sit in the dental chair. Don’t let your child hear you complaining about an upcoming dental visit – your bad attitude might be catchy. Instead, come home and brag about your clean, white and healthy teeth – inspire your family to want the same.
Inform Your Practitioner
It wouldn’t hurt to inform your practitioner that your child is experiencing fear. You can also request that the dentist provide a short tour of his office and instruments, or engage your child in small talk as the check-up is going on. An understanding professional will take note of the problem and be more sensitive when interacting with your child.
Consider a Pediatric Dentist
If the family’s general dental practitioner really gives your child the shakes, then consider a dentist that specializes in dentristy for children. These dentists are called pedodontists. Pedodontists go to extra lengths to make a dental visit comfortable for a child; from the way their office is set up, to the way they speak to children. They are also more aware than the general practitioner of the issues that trouble children about dentists.
Teach Your Child Some Techniques to Manage Anxiety While in the Dental Chair
Usually, it’s not your dentist that’s the problem; it’s the actual check-up that gives your child the shakes. Maybe your child just doesn’t like the sensation of someone poking metal instruments in his or her mouth (after all, who does?); maybe he or she doesn’t like sitting still for a very long time. Maybe there is a little pain or discomfort in the examination or treatment. If this is the case, perhaps a few anxiety management tools — visualization, breathing exercises and meditation— can help your child cope. You might be able to bring a guided meditation CD or MP3 to the dental office – there are special ones made for children. But feel free to get yourself the adult version – imagining yourself on the beach instead of in the dentist’s chair is good for YOU as well as for your child, even if you aren’t particularly afraid.