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Going to the dentist is not something most people normally look forward to, but it’s a necessary step toward maintaining good oral health. When it comes to taking children to the dentist, it can be a scary experience. Even adults hesitate over or dread having to pay a visit to the dentist’s office, but it is important that their kids see the dentist as a place that is helpful and even a fun place to go. If your child is worried about their next dental appointment, there are some things you can do to help ease their fears and make the experience something they will look forward to rather than be scared of.
Before you make an appointment for your child’s next dentist visit, make sure they understand why it is important to take good care of their teeth. Talk with them about proper brushing and flossing and make it a family event together so it helps to encourage them to brush regularly. Children need to see a dentist every six months in order to get cleanings and so the dentist can check on your child’s oral development. Dentists will also make sure your child isn’t dealing with any hidden problems like cavities you cannot see or a possible problem with their teeth not growing in properly. The younger you take your child to the dentist for regular visits, the easier it will be since it helps them get used to it and it becomes a part of their normal life. There are books available for younger kids about the subject of going to the dentist: Consider borrowing a few of those books from your local library and reading them to your child so they get more comfortable with the idea.
A visit to the dentist doesn’t have to be something your child fears. There are plenty of things you can do to help make the experience a lot more fun for them as well as yourself. Be sure you focus on the positive points about dentist visits and tell your child how clean and fresh their mouth will feel when they are done. Avoid using scary words like “pain” or “hurt” so that you don’t give them negative perceptions about the experience. Make up a fun game where you pretend to be their dentist at home and play with them so they can mentally prepare for what it’s like to sit in the chair. You can also do some fun brushing and flossing challenges that will encourage them to take good care of their teeth and reward them with small prizes whenever they accomplish these goals on their own. You can even reward your child after a dental visit with a special treat like buying them a favorite toy or taking them out for a special lunch or to see a movie. Positive reinforcement will help foster good feelings about the dentist and help to remove their fears.
On the day of the dental visit, let your child bring along a game, book, or toy from home. Familiar things they can bring from home will help them feel comforted while they wait to see the dentist and will make the process easier. Be sure you are by their side and supportive of them the entire time, and do not diminish their feelings of nervousness. Hold your child’s hand and reassure them that everything will be fine and that the visit will be short and over in no time. Make sure you choose a good pediatric dentist who has a gentle touch and specializes in dealing with children. A good pediatric dentist will have a bright and cheery office and typically lets their patients pick out a small toy at the end of their visit. With a little bit of planning, some positive reinforcement, and a good choice for your child’s dentist, you can help eliminate their fears and replace them with feelings of fun.
To learn more, check out these resources on children’s dental health:
- Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth
- The First Visit
- Oral Health Information for Parents
- A Guide to Your Child’s Smile (PDF)
- Taking the Anxiety Out of Taking Your Child to the Dentist
- Fun Dental Games and Activities
- Seven Ways to Make Dental Hygiene for Kids Fun
- Good Oral Health Books for Kids
- Tooth Tips for a Fun Summer
- Going to the Dentist
- Toy Designers Make Brushing Fun
- Encourage Healthy Dental Habits Away From Home
- Dental Checkups Help Kids Miss Fewer School Days
- Overcoming a Fear of the Dentist
- Nine Tips to Calm Your Child’s Dental Fears
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