The professional blog of Doctors Dan Bruce, Steve Bruce, Rosa Pothier and Rob Ririe
Tips to Reduce Your Child's Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety is prevalent among young children and, in many cases, can stem from an adult's own dental fears (whether you recognize them or not). If left unmanaged, going to the dentist can become an unpleasant ordeal for children. But it doesn't have to be that way!
As a parent, you can take steps to manage your children's dental anxiety before it interferes with oral health. This will help ensure they have a beautiful, healthy foundation for their smiles from childhood to their teenage years and beyond.
1. Offer a Simple Explanation of What to Expect
Start by telling children when they'll be visiting the dentist and what it will be like. After all, just the look of a dental office and meeting a stranger can be frightening.
By giving children basic information about what to expect during their visit, you can put their minds at ease and make them feel more comfortable. You don't have to go into complex detail because the dentist is trained to answer questions children ask in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner.
2. "Practice" for a Dental Visit
Familiarity breeds comfort and this certainly applies to children and the dentist! For some children, dental anxiety is the result of not knowing what will happen at the office.
A great way to overcome this is to pretend play a dental visit. Have children sit in the "chair," count their teeth, and hold up a mirror to show them how a dentist might examine their mouths. You can even encourage children to brush their dolls' or stuffed animals' teeth to get more accustomed to the dental routine.
3. Don't Offer a Reward for Good Behavior
It can be tempting to promise children a lollipop, movie, or other physical reward for good behavior at the dentist, but doing so could actually make them expect a negative experience, thereby increasing their apprehension.
Instead of bribing children with a material incentive, offer verbal praise following an appointment. This is a great way to show that you're proud of them and convey that going to the dentist isn't so bad.
4. Explain Good Oral Hygiene
Kids don't always understand why checkups are good for them, but they do understand tangible outcomes. Be sure children understand that visiting the dentist will make their teeth strong and keep their smile looking great. These things can motivate them to want to go to the dentist.
5. Keep it About Your Child
It can be tempting to use your own dental experiences to put your children at ease, but try to avoid it. You may have some dental anxiety that you don't realize and could inadvertently convey this to your children.
Keep all of the attention focused on your children. Doing so will give them the confidence they need and reduce the likelihood of feeling anxious over their upcoming dental appointment.
Start Dental Visits Young and Start Them Right
Engaging in pretend play, providing simple explanations, focusing on your children and reinforcing positive experiences are useful tips to help manage pediatric dental anxiety. Reading a children's book about visiting the dentist is also a fun way to prepare for your child's first dental appointment.
Start dental visits at a young age between six months of age and no later than one year old. By starting visits young and starting them off right, you can create a positive early association with the dentist. We love seeing children of all ages at our two Boise dental offices and will help ensure that their first appointment is a great experience!
Easing Your Child's Fear of the Dentist. (2014, October 9). Retrieved June 2, 2015 from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-childrens-fears-dentist
Port, D. (n.d.). 8 Tips to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Dentists. Retrieved June 2, 105 from http://www.parents.com/health/dental/kids-overcome-fear-dentists/