Hey everyone, Dr. Jason here,
Not only as a dentist, but also as a fellow parent, I am familiar with children’s fear of going to the dentist. While some kids actually look forward to going to the dentist, many have a mild to extreme fear of sitting in a dentist chair. This fear isn’t something to be ashamed of, in fact it is quite common. More importantly, it’s vital to establish a positive association between good dental health and going to the dentist, so they can learn good habits that can carry on to adulthood.
To help parents navigate childhood dental anxiety, I wanted to share with you some helpful tips to overcome your child’s fear.
- Don’t let your own fears feed the beast
I have written a number of articles that talk about adult dental anxiety, and how a large percentage of the population suffer from some degree of dental anxiety. The key take-away is that a fear of going to the dentist isn’t uncommon. It’s important that we are aware of our own fears so we don’t pass these fears down to your children.
- Start dental visits at an early age
A common rule of thumb for a child’s first dental visit is when their first tooth appears, or by their first birthday. Starting them at an early age can go a long way to preventing or limiting the fear.
- Play “dentist” at home
Letting your children role-play the part of a patient or dentist at home offers them a chance to explore the experience in a comfortable and familiar environment. Letting them count your teeth, or practice cleaning the teeth of their favorite doll or stuffed animal is an easy way to help introduce them to the concept of going to the dentist.
- Be honest
It may seem easier to “trick” your reluctant child in going to the dentist, or bribe them in going, but in the end this can create a negative association with the experience. Plus, this could actually make their anxiety or stress greater without giving them the opportunity to manage their stress. Instead, I recommend giving them plenty of notice that the visit is coming, and communicate with them. Speak in simple terms, but try to answer them honestly.
- Go to the family’s dentist
Going to a dental office that is familiar and skilled with treating children will help ensure that your child’s experience is a positive one. A family dental practice is familiar with all the little things that help make a child’s dental visit upbeat and constructive.
Teaching our children good oral hygiene will lead to great oral health as an adult. Teaching our kids the importance of taking care of our teeth will pay huge dividends as they get older. Finger Lakes Dental Care is very experienced with pediatric dentistry, and we cherish the opportunity in helping develop your children’s dental knowledge.