Visiting the dentist can be scary for some children. However, with some preparation, it can be a positive and even enjoyable experience. Here are 10 tips to help.
- Start early: Early dental check-ups will help your child get to know the dentist and office and also help establish good oral hygiene habits. Schedule your child's first visit once they are about one year old or soon after their first tooth appears.
- Select a pediatric dentist: Pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with children and should have a child-friendly environment.
- Be positive: Use positive language and avoid any scary or negative words when talking about the dentist. Focus on the importance of healthy teeth.
- Be a good example: Make sure your kids see their parents brushing and flossing a few times a day and help them with their dental hygiene as well. Brushing and flossing together is a fun way to get it done. Talk about your own dentist appointments also.
- Read books: Visit the library and find some books about going to the dentist. A great way to get to know about dental visits and reduce anxiety.
- Act it out: Just like kids love playing doctor when they are little, play dentist at home also. Take turns being the dentist and patient. Use a mirror and toothbrush and mimic a typical dental check-up as much as possible.
- Meet the dentist: Call and ask if you can bring your child to visit the office and meet the dentist and staff prior to the first dental visit to help your child feel more comfortable.
- Keep it simple: Avoid saying things like "it won't hurt" or "you will be okay". Instead, give them basic information without too many details. Tell them the dentist will count their teeth, check for "sugar bugs" (cavities), and make sure their teeth are strong.
- Allow a comfort item: If needed, allow your child to bring their comfort item such as a favorite toy or stuffed animal to lower their anxiety. I've even seen the dentist give the stuffy a "check-up" before checking the child's teeth with lots of giggles from the child.
- Stay calm: Your child will pick up on any anxiety or nerves you might have. Be calm, reassuring, and supportive of your child.
Hopefully, these tips will help make your child's visit to the dentist enjoyable and without stress - for the child and you as well - and lead to healthy dental hygiene for all.