Tips to Help Your Kids Overcome the Fear of the Dentist’s Office
Dentist. Even the word can get under your skin, if you’re frightened by the dentist. But what makes some of us afraid to have a stranger poke around in our mouths, use noisy instruments to drill holes in our teeth and has us rinse with funny-tasting mouth washes? It turns out that environment plays a big role in this not-so-unusual fear. This means parents can play a large part in teaching their children to be or not be afraid of the dentist.
The first visit to a dentist is just like any new place that they could be excited about visiting. There are flashing lights, toys and masked people all around – and when you go to a kid-friendly dentist, they normally have a play area and fun things for the kids to do. If dental visits are positive, and children have good experiences before encountering negative ones at the dentist’s office, they have a better chance of avoiding this fear in the future.
In honor of February as National Children’s Dental Health Month, we want to give you tips on how to ease the fear of the dentist for your kids.
- Kid-friendly dentist: A good dentist can go a long way when it comes to dental fears – so get a recommendation from a friend who has already gone to a good dentist. Usually pediatric dentists are great with kids and have great offices set up.
- The Importance of Oral Health: Have conversations regularly about why it’s important to brush and floss your teeth and visit the dentist. If you talk about it more often and have it become routine, it will seem more normal to visit the dentist.
- Meet and Greet: If you can, set up a meet and greet for your child and the dentist before the first appointment. Take your child to the office to see the place, meet the dentist and try out the chair before the visit, so they are more comfortable when they arrive for the official visit.
- Regular Dental Visits: The more regularly they visit, the less afraid they will be because they will remember being at the dentist previously. They should see a dentist every six months.
- Explain in Easy Terms: Let your child know what to expect with terms they understand. Tell them what they’re doing and what to expect so they won’t be so afraid.
- Your Own Fears: Be careful not to share your fear of the dentist with your kids. If you do, it could very well make them more afraid and stressed.
- Tell the Dentist: If your child is feeling anxious or afraid, let the dentist know. They may be able to help ease their fear and treat them with a little more care.
- Avoid Scary Words: Avoid using words like “hurt”, “freezing” or “shot” with your kids if you think it could make them more anxious. Kids and scary words aren’t normally a good combination.
- Distract Your Kids: While you are in the waiting room at the dentist office, read them a book or play with them, so it takes their mind off of the visit and relaxes them in advance.
For more information on National Children’s Dental Health Month visit: www.ada.org/news/9319.aspx.
For tips on your kids dental health, visit: www.first5sandiego.org/oral-health-tips.
First 5 San Diego’s Oral Health Initiative (OHI) provides free dental services for children ages zero through five and pregnant women. To get connected, call 1-888-5 FIRST 5 (1-888-534-7785) or click here to find an OHI provider near you.