As we've already detailed in Children's Brushing Tips, good dental care for your child starts soon after they are born. Your influence will be the first dental care measures your child becomes familiar with, and it's important to establish good brushing habits when they are young. A parent's positive influence will be an important factor in a healthy outlook for your children's teeth, but a big part of healthy teeth will always be the family dentist. However, taking your child there regularly can be difficult if they have developed a fear of the dentist. The good news is this fear can be overcome early in their childhood. Let's talk about what to do if your child is afraid of the dentist.
Select A Family Dentist
The first task in preventing any fear or trepidation in your child is to select a Family Dentistry. Not every dentist's office is focused around care for every member of the family. Your chosen dentist may be a great option for you, but if they don't offer pediatric dentistry or you're simply worried they might not be good with children, you can always look elsewhere. Feel free to interview the dentist on their policies and practices around child patients before you schedule a visit.
When To Go
Your child's first visit to the dentist starts early. The best approach is to schedule their first visit around their first birthday. While this won't be the most extensive visit to the dentist, it will help diagnose any development issues and give peace of mind that their child's teeth are coming in normally. Any developmental issues can be addressed now to put your child on course for healthy teeth in the future. There is another benefit as well. Starting your children so young on dental visits will create a positive routine. At age one they'll hardly recognize that they are going to the dentist. But after several positive visits as they grow older, the dentist's office will become a familiar place for the child, hopefully lessening their fears.
Stay Positive But Vague
It's important to stay positive with your child whenever you take them to the dentist. Even if you harbor your own reservations about going to the dentist, make sure none of those fears get passed to your child. Starting young as we outlined above, and making the office visit a fun, lighthearted experience will foster positive feelings about the dentist as they grow up.
As your child grows older, they will no doubt have questions about why they're going to the dentist and what happens there. While we all want to be as transparent as possible with our children, it's best to keep answers to the point and vague in the early years. Outlining complex or scary procedures in detail will only contribute to any future concerns or fears about the dentist. Stay positive, "We're going to go to the dentist for a few minutes and it will be fun," as well as vague: "A nice dentist is going to look at your teeth for a couple minutes." You'll want to stay away from any negative words like "ouchy" or "hurt." These tips will help with your early visits to the dentist.
Schedule A Meet And Greet
Your child doesn't have to sit in the dentist's chair the first time they visit, and actually most offices prefer they don't right away. A low pressure meet and greet is a great way to introduce your child to their dentist, especially if they are a little older. This way you can say to your child: "This will be your dentist," and they have a chance to interact without the influence of any dental care for that first meeting.
Stay Close By
It can be a great help to your child to sit close to them throughout any dental cleaning or procedure. You can hold their hand and offer reassurances throughout the process, and this prevents any feeling of isolation which can lead to increased nervousness. You'll want to differ to the dentist or hygienist to explain what they're doing, but if you've selected a family dentistry, they should be well versed in explaining what is going to happen without worrying the child.
It can be trying to have a child who is afraid of the dentist, but there is a lot you can do to calm them and make them feel comfortable going as they grow older. Just like dental care, a positive attitude and familiarity with your chosen dental professional starts early. With a strong start, your child will have healthy teeth, and a healthy outlook towards dentistry, for years to come. Here at Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry, we'd love the chance to show you and your family that there is no need to be afraid of the dentist. Schedule a consultation or appointment or contact us today for more information.
Image one and thumb courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.