It can be hard to get children to cooperate. Often, “Eat your vegetables, Timmy” is followed by a “No!” and stalks of broccoli flying past your head.
The same can be true of visiting the dentist, especially if your child experiences anxiety in the dental office. But good oral habits begin at young age. So, it’s important to get your kids comfortable with their dental provider and regular checkups and cleanings – especially in the COVID era.
Now that dental offices are reopening, it’s a good time to learn a few tips and tricks you can use to help ease your child’s fear.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly
Be as honest and open as possible with your child before their appointment, but for the technical stuff it’s better to let the dentist do the explaining.
Dental professionals are trained to describe procedures in simple, non-threatening ways and are e equipped to answer your child’s questions. And if your child does start to get nervous, they’ll know the best ways to tackle fear in the moment.
In fact, there’s a whole slew of dentists who cater exclusively to children and specialize in getting kids acquainted and comfortable with regular dental visits!
Give Them a Heads Up
Children thrive on predictability – from daily schedules to bed times, they like to know what to expect and when.
So, make sure to tell your child in advance that they have a dental appointment. It gives them time to mentally prepare by expressing their fears and asking questions. And gives you ample time to help them through their dental anxiety.
Bribery is a No-Go
When it comes to getting Timmy to eat his broccoli, the promise of ice cream or cookies might do the trick. But when it comes to preparing your child for their dental visit, experts say it’s best to avoid the sugary treats all together.
Dentists emphasize clean, healthy teeth by avoiding sweets that can cause cavities, so offering a lollipop if they behave sends the wrong message. If you promise your little one candy to keep them from crying or fussing, they’ll wonder what there is to fuss or cry about in the first place. And this can generate more fear leading up to the visit.
Some dentists do give out small treats -- like stickers or toys – as a reward for good behavior. It’s best to keep these incentives as reinforcement for good behavior. It leaves your child with a positive impression about the entire visit.
Talk to Them About Good Oral Hygiene
Just like regular checkups at a doctor’s office, cleanings and routine dental visits are key to maintaining good overall health.
Start by telling your child that the dentist helps keep teeth healthy so that he or she may eat well and grow big and strong. As they get older, explain that taking care of your oral health means a bright and beautiful smile for years to come. If you need some help with this, check out our Tooth Fairy Experience. There’s lots of resources that help make oral health fun for youngsters.
Start ‘Em Young
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should have their first dental visit no later than his/her first birthday.
Why? Well not only does this get them accustomed to visiting the dentist on a regular basis, but it provides them with what experts call a “dental home.”
This “dental home” will be where you child becomes accustomed to getting all of their needs – from periodic preventative visits to emergencies – taken care of. The more familiar they are with the dentist and the dentist’s office, the less likely they are to experience dental anxiety.
Use our Find a Dentist endorsements to find a dentist who is great with kids!
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