An estimated 16% of school-age kids have dentophobia: fear of the dentist. Some children are afraid of loud noises, bright lights, or simply not knowing what to expect. How can you help your kid overcome their dental anxiety?
Keep reading for some tips for helping your child deal with the fear of the dentist.
Bring Your Child to Your Dentist Appointment
If your child has never been to the dentist before, much of the fear likely comes from not knowing what to expect. You can help by bringing your child with you to your dental exam or cleaning. Ask the dentist if they can watch the process and explain what’s happening.
Stay positive and make sure they know that it’s not painful or scary. Introducing your child to the experience before their appointment is a great way to get them comfortable with the idea. This also works if you have older children they can observe at the dentist.
This also allows your child to observe what kind of tools are used and meet the people who work in the office. Offices that specialize in dentistry for children are understanding and can help your child overcome fear of the dentist.
Engage in Role Play
If you think bringing your child to an appointment for someone else is too much exposure at once, introduce them to the idea with role play. Buy some simple (not sharp) dentist tools like an angled mirror, a plastic tooth counter, an electric toothbrush, floss, and such. Have them recline in a chair and as you play the role of the dentist.
Explain what each tool is used for and why dental hygiene is important. Make sure you choose your words carefully and avoid saying too much about pain or discomfort. You can end the “dentist’s visit” by brushing their teeth with the electric toothbrush and having them rinse with mouthwash.
Bring Some Comforting Items
If your child has a favorite toy, blanket, or item that is comforting, bring it to the visit. As the dentist’s office can get crowded quickly, parents or caretakers may have to wait outside of the room. Ask the dentist ahead of time if you can sit with your child and hold their hand through the experience.
Bringing a set up over-ear headphones and making a playlist with calming music is another effective strategy. The sound of whirling tools may make the experience sound more painful or scarier than it is.
Read Books Together About the Dentist
Help the experience seem less intimidating by showing your child that a character they like goes to the dentist too. This Dora Goes to the Dentist book is for children ages 3 to 7 and shows Dora the Explorer getting a checkup from her dentist. It also includes a pack of 50 stickers that you can use to reward your kid after their appointment.
Fear Of The Dentist in Children Is Common
Fear of the dentist is common, but you can help your child overcome it with the steps listed above. Bring your child to your appointment to introduce them to the people and tools they’ll see when it’s time for their checkup. Or, you could experience the situation another way by reading books and role-playing.
Most importantly, see a child-friendly dental office and communicate with the staff ahead of time to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. If you liked this article on overcoming dental anxiety, check out the rest of the posts on our site for more quality content!