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Easing Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist

Going to the dentist for a child can be an unsettling experience. With extra auditory and tactile stimulation, a child can be easily overwhelmed. However, it is important that you do not let this fear take the place of the positive benefits that dental hygiene can bring. With preparation and exposure at a young age to family dentistry, a child can develop a healthy relationship with the dentist and start to develop good oral hygiene habits for their future. A child who has been exposed to dental hygienic practices may have a better understanding of how they work and what they need to do in order to maintain good oral health. If you are worried about your child’s fear of the dentist and want to help them overcome it, here are some tips:

Start Young

When it comes to your child’s oral health, the earlier, the better. As a baby, you can begin to expose them to the feeling of brushing their gums. By using a rice-sized bit of child’s toothpaste, you can rub it on their gums after the last meal of the day. When their teeth begin to come in, you can use a soft toothbrush. By one year of age, you should schedule your child’s first dental checkup with a pediatric dentist to check for dental problems. The earlier they are exposed to consistent dental care and treatment, the more likely they will be to brush their teeth regularly.

See a Pediatric Dentist

When your child sees a dentist, make sure that they are in the care of a dentist professional trained in pediatric dentistry. These family dentists are trained to treat children with special care. Pediatric dentists can not only treat your child, but they can help you with establishing  a healthy oral hygiene routine. If your child is having problems with brushing or flossing, ask them for advice on how to keep their mouth clean.

Prepare by Pretending

To ease your child’s fear of the dentist visit, you can use play time to recreate that experience. This will allow the child to become familiar with what to expect in a fun and stimulating way. By using play to simulate a dentist visit, your child can learn what a dentist is and what they will feel, hear, and experience during their visit. Another way to help prepare them for that experience would be to read books about dental visits. When a child associates a dentist with fun and excitement, they are less likely to be afraid in that situation. Visit your local library to find great books and other resources to help ease your child into the dental experience.

Explain Simply

Most of a child’s fear of the dentist comes from not understanding what the dentist is doing. Even as a young child, explaining what a dentist is, what procedures they may experience, and how this will help them grow strong and healthy teeth can really help children learn more about the dentist. Use simple words and language to help them understand what will happen to eliminate the unknown. If you have older children, it may help to have them also describe what a dentist visit is like in their own words. Explaining things clearly and easily to a child can help them understand even at a very young age.

Use Positive Language

When speaking about the dentist with your child, always use positive language. This helps children feel comfortable talking about the dentist. Positive language is important when talking about dental procedures, as it can set a tone for the child even before they step into the dentist’s office.  If you are using positive language, then it will make the child feel more comfortable and confident. Avoid making statements that are too negative or mean-spirited to the child. Instead, try to say something positive about the dentist that will encourage him or her to talk about the dentist. This can include phrases such as “the dentist helps your teeth stay healthy.” Avoid negative words such as pain, drilling, needles, decay, and others.

Lead By Example

Leading by example can be a great way for a child to feel comfortable about their first visit to the dentist. If you speak positively about your experiences at your family’s dentist office, they will be more curious and have a more positive mindset. Also, if you expect your child to engage in consistent dental hygiene habits, then be sure that you are setting that example for them by brushing and flossing regularly. Children love to mimic what their parents do, and this can help you set the tone for their dental health throughout their life.

The dentist can be a scary and unknown experience for a child if they are unfamiliar with their practices. By engaging in early intervention, explanation, and modeling, you can help your child feel confident about visiting the dentist and continuing their own oral health journey as they grow older.

If you have any questions regarding your child’s oral health, contact Maestri Family Dental. Their specialists are ready to help you help your children have consistently positive experiences with their staff, encouraging good oral hygiene habits throughout life.    

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