Routine dental appointments are critical to the maintenance of our health, especially for kids. It’s important that parents instill this habit in their children at an early age. A trip to the dentist may seem like a trivial task for adults who know what to expect, but can be intimidating – and even scary – for young kids.
According to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, the leading cause of childhood illness results from tooth decay. Approximately 16 million kids in the United States have tooth decay that has been left untreated. Tooth decay and oral problems from a young age not only affects teeth, but overall health and all aspects of life.
Getting your child to the dentist can be a daunting task for parents, especially if your child has peers with prior negative experiences. If you are unsure of how to get your child comfortable with dental checkups, you’re not alone. Below are five tips for helping your child overcome any fear and actually enjoy visits to the dentist.
Tell Them What to Expect
Fear can stem from the unknown. Getting on the website of the dental office you plan to visit to show your child pictures of the office can be helpful. When you call the office to schedule a visit, ask for a rundown of the appointment so you can later relay that to your child. As you brush your child’s teeth, explain that the dentist will also be doing the same type of thing. The more information the child has, the more empowered they can feel.
Be Honest and Understanding
If your child needs dental work, it can be tempting to lie about things like how cavities are treated. Honesty is the best policy, however, it is important to remember to use words that are non-threatening to your child. If your child has dental visit fears, ask them to tell you what they are specifically; try to listen and understand how they may be feeling. Answer their questions, and offer positive experiences of dentals visits you have had.
Explain that Dentists are the “Good Guys”
Children need to know that dentists are superheroes for their teeth. Explain to your kids that they only get two sets of teeth, and we have to take good care of them because they have to last a lifetime. Explaining that similar to brushing and flossing, visits to the dentist are part of that routine to grow big and strong. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you should take your child to the dentist twice a year. These visits should begin when your child starts getting his/her teeth, or around age one.
Make It Exciting!
Showing your child pictures of the dental office– as we previously mentioned in the first step – can inevitably spark some enthusiasm. Some dentists have really neat play areas and unique toys, which makes it something your child can look forward to. Going to the dentist is a new adventure! Using encouraging language such as, “We get to go to the dentist” instead of, “We have to go to the dentist” can also be helpful in making it a fun experience.
Being physically present during your child’s appointment goes a long way in ensuring they feel confident and safe. For a lot of kids, separation from their caretaker or parent can cause anxiety and/or fear. Make certain the person scheduling your appointment is okay with you staying with your child during the duration of the visit.
Other than eating healthy foods and practicing good oral maintenance, taking your child to the dentist is the single most important way to support healthy teeth. Utilizing these five tips will help ensure your child is not only comfortable going to the dentist, but they enjoy it too!