Many children have fears about going to the dentist, and for the most part, this is perfectly normal. Some children are afraid of being hurt, while others are simply nervous about being separated from their parents. A good dentist will be able to cope with your child’s anxiety and help put them at ease during their appointment, but there are also some tips that you can try to help relieve their fears.
One of the best ways to get your child used to the dentist is to start taking them when they are young. Before your child’s first visit, try taking him with you to your dental cleaning so that he can sit and watch. The process will seem much less scary the next time he is in the office and has his own checkup.
Leave Out the Details
When preparing your child for a dental appointment, it is important to keep it simple and not to go into details about what will happen. Make sure to watch what you say, and use positive words like healthy and clean teeth. Never use words that have a negative connotation or may scare your child, like “hurt” or “shot.” During the appointment, let the dental staff explain the procedures to your child, as they should be experienced in how to work with nervous children.
Don’t Tell Your Dental Horror Stories
It is important to avoid telling your child about any unpleasant or painful dental experiences that you’ve had in the past. Some parents do this in order to “scare” their children into taking good care of their teeth. For example, parents may explain that when they were young, they needed to get four cavities filled at the same appointment because they failed to properly brush, thinking that this would encourage their child to brush their teeth. For the most part, all this will do is to cause your child more anxiety about their dental visit.
Stay with Him
No matter how well you have prepared for this moment, once your child sits down in that big, dentist’s chair for the first time, he will likely be a little nervous. You can help to keep him calm by staying nearby. Most dentists will welcome and encourage parents to stay with their children during their appointment, as having you close can help your child to become more comfortable with going through a checkup on his own.
Don’t Use Bribery
Many parents try to use bribery to encourage their child to behave at their appointment. For example, you may think that telling your child that if he doesn’t cry during his appointment that he can get a new toy will encourage a positive experience. However, this may actually cause him more anxiety because he will be nervous about why the dental visit might make him want to cry. It is okay to let him know that after the dentist you can do something fun, as this can help to keep his mind off of the appointment, but don’t tell him this activity is dependent upon his bravery or behavior during the appointment.