About 20% of school-age kids experience dentophobia or the fear of dentists. These kids dread the thought of visiting the dental office and for them, lying on the chair is a scary ordeal. While it is a normal emotional reaction, dental anxiety can be detrimental to oral health if left unmanaged. As a parent, you need to design a plan to help your child overcome his fear. This is necessary to make sure that he has a healthy foundation for his beautiful smile from childhood and beyond. Here are some ways to calm your little one before his dental appointment:
1. Find an excellent pediatric dentist
Pediatric dentists are different from general dental professionals because they undergo 2-3 years of specialty training after dental school. This training includes child behavior and development, which makes them better equipped in treating infants and children. They use small exam chairs and equipment that is exclusively designed for little mouths, which makes children more comfortable. They are also trained on how to manage uncooperative and misbehaving kids during dental treatment.
2. Engage your kid in a conversation
Having a dialogue with your child about his fear can help you discover the cause of his anxiety. Dental phobia is caused by many factors such as a negative experience, fear of injections, fear of drilling or even a scary experience that they saw from television. Explain to him that visiting the dentist is not a choice, but a necessary step to maintain his healthy teeth and gums. Create a positive image of the dentist and tell your child that the teeth doctor is a friendly person who will look for sugar bags, check his smile and count his teeth.
While you want to show empathy and let him know that you understand his fear, avoid sharing the unpleasant dental experiences that you had in the past. Telling disturbing stories long before his dental visit may increase your child’s anxiety. Be careful with your words and avoid using negative terms such as “shot,” “pain,” and “hurt.” This will cause your child unnecessary stress and would make his dental visit an alarming appointment.
2. Do not reward your child with a bribe
Some parents promise their children a reward for going to their dental appointment. However, doing so will only increase your child’s apprehension, and he may perceive the dental visit as a negative experience. Giving him compliments and praises are better reinforcements to encourage his cooperation in future visits. Applauding your toddler for his bravery during the treatment can make a huge difference.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that you should take your kid to the dentist the moment his first tooth comes out or before he turns one year old. You have to lead by example and take care of your dental health to instill the importance of oral hygiene in your child’s mind. It can be frustrating when he refuses to go to the dentist even for a simple fluoride treatment, but with your help and patience, your kid will be able to outgrow his fear.