By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
Nearly a fifth of children are afraid of going to the dentist’s office. What about your child? If your kids are scared or anxious about going to see the dentist, here are some tips to help them overcome their fears and confidently take a seat in the dentist’s chair.
1. Start Them Young
The best way to reduce or eliminate fear of going to the dentist is to make it part of your child’s wellness routine early. We recommend your child’s first visit happens before his or her first birthday. When a visit to the dentist is a normal and expected part of your child’s life, anxiety and fears dissipate. Plus, regular preventative dental care can help reduce emergency trips to the dentist down the road.
2. Start a Conversation
Kids do best when they can predict what’s going to happen to them. Before you leave for your child’s visit to the dentist, start a conversation. Describe what will happen during the visit and who they’ll meet. Talk about what they may see, feel, hear, or taste. You don’t have to be overly specific, but provide enough information so your child feels comfortable, not apprehensive. Explain to your kids why your family goes to the dentist and how it’s necessary for a healthy life.
3. Encourage Them to Relax
Once you’re at the office, help your kids relax. Practice taking deep breaths and remind them to breathe while they’re in the dentist’s chair. Use positive words instead of focusing on the negative. Dr. Elizabeth, Dr. Jeff, and Dr. Furey are great at using positive phrases like “I’m going to check your smile” or “I’m going to count your teeth” to put kids at ease.
4. Bring Some Distractions
Favorite toys or comfort items can be helpful as long as they don’t interfere with the dentist’s work. Tell your dentist what your kid likes to do so he or she can tailor conversation to your child. Some dentists may even give kids a game to do while their teeth are being cleaned, such as counting the ceiling tiles. Of course, the cartoons the kids can watch at our office are always a hit.
5. Reward Them for a Job Well Done
We don’t recommend bribing your kids to come to the dentist, but it can be effective to reward them for brave behavior. Stickers, pencils, and temporary tattoos are fun and inexpensive rewards. If your child is particularly fearful, reward your child throughout the visit, not just at the end. Fear and anxiety can make a trip to the dentist miserable for you and your kids. That’s why it’s important to prepare kids for their visit before you even step in the door. It’s also important to find an experienced dental team, like those of us at Eggert Family Dentistry. To book your child’s next visit, request an appointment today.