So it’s time to take your child to their Lexington pediatric dentist, and they’re not happy about it. How do you avoid a tantrum when your child is experiencing significant dental anxiety? About 6.3% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 have dental anxiety, so if you’re a parent who’s struggling with an anxious child, you’re not alone.
There are plenty of ways to combat your child’s fear of the dentist, and we’re here to help. Read on to learn a few top tips for preventing and conquering dental anxiety.
Start as Young as Possible
This is the #1 best thing that you can do as a parent when it comes to preventing dental anxiety. You should aim to bring your child to the dentist as early as possible.
Dentists recommend that you take your child to their first dental appointment by the time that their first tooth pushes through (or before their first birthday). There are several reasons for this.
First, it will help you as a parent learn how to take care of your child’s teeth and gums when they’re too young to do it on their own. You’ll also learn how to handle teething, thumb-sucking, and more.
When you start bringing your child to routine dentist’s appointments as an infant, you’re also setting them up for a dental anxiety-free future. Going to the dentist twice per year turns into a routine event instead of a scary catastrophe.
You want to make sure that your child is used to the dentist. Unfamiliar experiences are scary!
Explain the Situation First
If your child is still anxious about the dentist, or if this is their first dentist’s appointment, you want to explain the situation to them as thoroughly as possible (within the realm of their understanding).
Talk to them about why people go to the dentist. A dentist is there to keep their teeth clean and healthy, so visiting the dentist should be a good thing!
Talk them through what their appointment is going to be like. If you’re unsure, feel free to reach out to your local dentist so they can give you a rundown. If a child knows what to expect, they’re far less likely to experience fear of the dentist.
You can even “play dentist” at home to help them understand. Pretend that you’re a dentist and run through the fake appointment with the child. You could even get a play dentist toy set for your child.
When you’re done, let your child be the dentist.
Use Books and Other Media to Help
We’re fortunate to have so many children’s books and cartoons that feature visits to the dentist’s office. Use them to your advantage!
Children may have trouble understanding the need to visit a dentist when an adult explains it to them. It’s far easier (and more engaging) to teach them using characters that they’re familiar with.
For example, Sesame Street has a helpful video to prepare children for their dental visits. They use bright and colorful characters and simple explanations to make children feel comfortable.
Talk About Your Own Positive Experiences
While you’re preparing your child for their visit to the dentist, try to tell them about your own dentist’s office experiences. It’s best to leave out anything about complicated dental procedures at this time, though you can touch on them briefly (especially if your dentist did a great job at making you feel comfortable!).
Tell them about how painless dental cleanings and checkups are. Talk about how nice dentists can be, and how you can trust them to keep your teeth clean.
If it’s possible to do so, consider bringing your child to your next dental appointment so they can watch. Let the dentist know ahead of time that you’re doing this so they can be prepared.
Children want to mimic their parents, so this will set a great example for your child.
Visit a Pediatric Dentist Instead of a General Dentist
You likely already have a family or general dentist that you go to, right? Even if you’re happy with your current dentist, it’s a good idea to opt for a pediatric dentist for your child if you want to prevent or alleviate their dental anxiety.
So what’s the difference?
Pediatric dentists receive extra training so they know how to care for children. They can handle child-specific dental problems (such as cavities in baby teeth, teething, and more). They also know how to break down complex topics to a child so that they can understand.
Pediatric dentists have a great chair-side manner. They know that children may feel nervous when they visit the dentist, so they’re friendly and welcoming.
They may even introduce your child to the various tools that they plan on using before they start the checkup. This might make your child feel more comfortable during the experience.
Bonus: pediatric dentists often have child-friendly waiting rooms. Instead of a dull and sterile environment, the room will be bright and welcoming so children can relax before their appointment.
Let Them Bring a Toy or Comfort Item
Does your child have a favorite toy, blanket, or another comfort item? There’s nothing wrong with allowing them to bring it to their dentist’s appointment. Pediatric dentists understand that children often need a “security blanket” in order to feel safe in an unfamiliar environment.
Over time, your child won’t be as reliant on their comfort item to make them feel safe. It’s appropriate to allow it for now.
Is It Time for an Appointment With Your Lexington Pediatric Dentist?
Childhood dental anxiety is normal, but don’t let it get in the way of their appointments with their Lexington pediatric dentist. Use these tips to help your child feel more comfortable when they get into the dentist’s chair.
If it’s time for an appointment with a kid’s dentist in Georgetown or Lexington, we want to meet you! Contact us to set up an appointment for your child today.