Whether a kid has a bad experience themself, or a friend or sibling who does, fear of the dentist is all too common. While having some anxiety about the dentist is understandable, it should not get in the way of good oral health and hygiene. Going to the dentist is a key part of that. That’s why the caring team at AC Pediatric Dentistry believes in making the experience of going to the dentist as fun and safe for kids as we possibly can.
This guide will give you a clear picture of why so many kids have a fear of going to the dentist, as well as some practical tips for helping them overcome that fear. By having a solid plan, and visiting the right pediatric dentist for your family, we hope you and your child can have the best possible experience.
Why Are Kids Afraid to Go to the Dentist?
There are many different reasons for being afraid of going to the dentist. For some people, it’s simply anxiety about the pain. In other cases, it can be the noises associated with dental equipment. The portrayal of dentists and dental offices in many children’s movies and cartoons as scary places certainly doesn’t help.
It can also depend on the child. Kids who are generally shy, sensitive, and/or withdrawn can be more likely to have a tough time going to the dentist.
The most important thing you can do as a parent if your child is scared or anxious of the dentist is to try and understand his or her individual triggers. This can make it easier to prepare and set your child up for a successful visit.
5 Practical Ways to Help Children Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist
Here are five proven steps that can help reduce stress, fear, and anxiety when you and your child visit the dentist:
1. Talk It Over Beforehand
For many kids, fear of the dentist may have started by not being prepared for the experience. Explaining a dental appointment clearly and in a way he or she can understand is very helpful to assuaging fears and doubts. Ask if there is anything they are afraid of, tell them that the dentist is a friendly person who is just trying to help their teeth, and tell them how long it will probably take. You should be able to ask the dentist what to expect so you can explain it honestly and calmly to your child.
2. Let Them Bring a Toy or Stuffed Animal
Especially for young children, it’s all about reducing stress. If bringing a toy or stuffed animal helps your child feel safe and secure when going to the dentist, then that is a good thing. Make sure to ask about your dentist’s policy for bringing a toy or friend along to the office so you can set the right expectations for your little one.
3. Stay Calm Yourself
A lot of times, your children can sense your own stress and anxiety as a parent and feed off of that. While none of us can control how we feel all of the time, it can be helpful to be aware of what you are doing and do what you can to manage it. Take deep breaths to center yourself, make sure you eat and drink enough beforehand, leave early enough to get to the appointment on time, and try to avoid stressful activities during the day. While you’re there, be patient and soothing to your child as much as you can.
4. Do Something Fun Afterward
No matter how good or bad one appointment goes, positive reinforcement afterwards can help next time. That can mean going to their favorite park, favorite store, or even getting a sweet treat. Anything you can do within your boundaries of parenting can help associate going to the dentist with positive feelings.
5. Choose the Right Dentist
Not all dentists are the same, and some are going to be a better fit for your child and your family than others. Finding a pediatric dentist who understands and likes children, and knows how to put them at ease, can go a long way toward helping your child overcome their fear of the dentist. Take some time to visit a prospective dentist if you can and get a feel for the practice. Is the office warm and inviting? Are the support staff friendly and helpful? Does the dentist have time to answer your questions in a calm and patient way? Answering no to any of these questions could substantially increase the risk of your child being scared to go to the dentist.
A trip to the dentist’s office should be a calm, fun, and stress free experience. By making the right preparations and finding a pediatric dental provider that values you and your child’s security and calmness, it is possible to make that happen.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!