Going to the dentist can be a scary thing for children. They have to lay in a chair while a stranger puts things in their mouth and makes them uncomfortable. There is naturally going to be some anxiety surrounding dentist visits, but there’s a lot that parents can do to ease fears and to make the dentist’s office seem less scary with each visit.
Start Young. Toddlers are pretty fearless and the older children get, the more afraid they may be to experience new things. Taking your kids to the dentist early and often will make it a commonplace thing in their lives. They’ll be much more at ease if they know what to expect and are used to the routine there.
Choose Your Words Carefully. Be careful not to make things worse when you’re talking to your kids about an upcoming dentist appointment. They will take cues from you and if they sense that you’re nervous, they will be too. Try to avoid saying things that may turn out to be untrue like, “It won’t hurt.” If they have a cavity or another issue that might need to be addressed, it might hurt a little, and you don’t want to lose their trust. Instead say, “I’ll be with you the whole time.” Keep it simple and don’t give too many details that will only cause their anxiety to build before they arrive. Tell them something like, “The dentist wants to take a peek at your teeth and make sure they’re all in there.”
Try a Pretend Visit at Home. Tell your child that you want to play dentist. Have them open their mouth and use a toothbrush to count each of their teeth. When their pretend visit is over, offer them a sticker or other small prize as a reward. This will help them view their dentist visit with a positive attitude.
No matter how much you prepare them, some children are bound to get at least a little bit upset at their real appointment. Just stay calm, reassure them, and congratulate them for a job well done at the end. The next visit will be easier once they know what to expect.