A trip to the dentist may seem like an easy, routine task, but it can be incredibly scary for children who aren’t used to having their teeth cleaned and examined. There are new smells, loud noises from the tools, and fear about the unknowns of whether the teeth cleaning will hurt. Some children also feel fearful about getting separated from their parents.
If this is the case for your child, keep in mind that it is totally normal for kids to feel frightened about something new or unknown, and there are some practical ways you can help manage the visit so that it’s pleasant for everyone.
Here are a few ways you can play an important role in making your child’s dentist visit a positive experience:
Set expectations: Prepare your child for the dentist by giving them a simple, straightforward explanation about what will happen during the visit. Leave the more complex questions for the dentist to answer, who is better equipped to explain in a friendly, non-threatening way.
Talk about the importance of dental health: Teach your children about the benefits of taking good care of their teeth and gums, and let them know that the dentist is helping them be as healthy as they can be.
Don’t share stories about negative experiences: While many of us have experienced a painful or unpleasant visit to the dentist, it’s not a good idea to share those stories with your kids. Children need to see that you are calm and unafraid of the office, so stay away from words like “shot” or “pain”, even if you think it’s going to help prepare them.
Bring a calming toy. A soothing toy can be a welcome distraction during a dental visit. Just be sure to call ahead and make sure the toy is suitable to have in the dental chair during the examination.
Use positive reinforcement. Most children respond well to praise and affirmation, so continue to focus on telling them how brave they are how proud you are of their good behavior. Calm, positive feedback during a tantrum can go a long way.
None of that is working?: There are a few sedatives we can offer in the office to keep a child calm during the visit. Someone from the dental staff can discuss those options if it’s necessary.