Tips to Help Your Children Overcome A Fear of the Dentist

child at dentist small - Tips to Help Your Children Overcome A Fear of the Dentist

Wide and fearful eyes, a few screams and yelps here and there-is that the scene of you trying to take your offspring to the “scary” dentist? Do not worry, we all have been in that rocky boat. The truth is that as adults, we are accustomed to dentist visits and have overcome that irrational fear we held on to during our childhoods. However, it is not an “irrational” fear for your child but a genuine dread that exists in his head.

Perhaps your kid saw you heal from a root canal or a tooth extraction and equates a trip to the dentist as a trip to the doctor. To make the dentist a “safe” place will be a daunting, challenging task, but there are steps you can take to reduce the level of fear or help your children face it.

  1. Begin Young

It is never too early to go to the dentist! It is recommended by to schedule your child’s first visit by the time his first birthday rolls along. You can get advise on how to handle thumb sucking and pacifier situations whilst building a relationship between your child and the dentist. By doing this, you will be instilling a habit in your child from a young age and he will be a pro at hopping on/off the dentist’s chair. Of course, he will be comfortable in the environment as he will be familiar with it and may even look forward to the fun rewards he may get from his dentist (lollipop anyone?)

  1. Role Play

Children love to engage in role play. Be it a chef, a barber, a doctor, a fireman or now a dentist-it will help them comprehend the process of visiting the dentist. Put up a play version of a dentist’s chair in your living room and pretend to be the patient whilst your child portrays the role of the dentist. If he does not know what questions to ask or what to say, switch around and give it a shot. Pretend to look inside his mouth, ask questions about his teeth, and discuss X-rays. Tell your child how shiny, clean and white his teeth can be when a tooth polisher is used. Perhaps share the fact that it may tickle him a little and make him laugh. Give him a reward at the end (a small ice cream treat?) and thank him.

  1. Allow “Control”

A recent number of research studies discovered that children are scared of the dentist as they feel they lose control. You can address this by giving them the perception that they are in control in the dentist’s chair. For instance, allow them to choose the flavour of the fluoride treatment or which tooth will be polished first.

  1. Praise Away

Adopting an encouraging approach may work wonders for your child. Tell him (or her!) how proud you are in the fact that he braved the dentist’s chair and passed his dental examination. Praise can often alleviate a child’s fear and helps him feel that he can do anything as he has his parent’s support. Give him a small reward such as let him stay up a bit later, an extra taste of chocolate or a bit more time to enjoy his favourite cartoon.

  1. Distract Away

Little children, especially infants and toddlers, are emotionally attached to a physical item. This can be a toy, a blanket or even your smartphone (today’s kids are born with a technological gene it seems). They will not be want to be away from their favourite article and will lead to tears as well as an unproductive visit to the dentist’s office. Take his stuffed toy along and let him hold it as he sits in the dentist’s chair. Crack a few jokes to lighten the atmosphere and to lift your kid’s spirits. Whilst at the dentist’s office, talk about what you will do after: a trip to the ice cream salon or a delicious dinner awaits.

  1. Remain with Your Child

One of the simplest yet most effective tricks is to just remain with your child as he undergoes his dental check-up. Even if you have prepped and educated him on what to expect, it is natural if there will still be a small level of anxiety. Help him by sticking around and staying positive. Hopefully, your dentist will have an open door policy towards parents and understand the calming effect your presence will have.

  1. Avoid Negativity

Without realizing, parents will frequently complain about their own dental experiences in front of their children. Kids are smart and pick up the negative signals associated with the trip to the dentist. Try to consciously avoid the usage of words that depict pain or illustrate your own fear. Paediatric dentists are used to handling difficult children and have ways of managing them. Let them use their own jargon and language to communicate with the kids. They may apply words such as “cleaning sugar bugs” to make your child understand what is going on. Another popular phrase is that their teeth are being counted and how wide their smiles can be.

  1. Teach Oral Hygiene

Letting your child learn the essence of oral and dental hygiene from a youthful age will be the best thing you can do in his entire lifetime. Explain to him that in order to grow, he has to eat right. And to be able to eat, he must develop strong and healthy teeth. Relate it to his favorite superhero cartoon.

  1. Read Up

If you wish to broaden your horizon of knowledge in dental healthcare for children, you can always read up and it may help you when preparing your child for a dentist’s visit. There are plenty of authentic, reliable resource available in the digital world along with print journals and magazines with recommendations to help you. Not only that, you can tell stories to your children about how their favorite characters (from their favorite stories) went to the dentist and how brave they were or how excited they were to have strong teeth. There are a multitude of ways to incorporate and only you, as a parent, can make the call which technique to use with your kid.

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