Helping Your Children Overcome Dental Phobia
Visiting the dentist can be a terrifying experience for children. However, to encourage optimal oral health you have to start early. Follow these tips to help your child relax before their next dental appointment.
- Avoid bribery – Teaching good oral hygiene practices to your children is not easy. You may be tempted to offer a bribe if they behave at the dentist, but I would use this approach sparingly. Studies show that bribing your kids to do important things such as visiting a healthcare provider can be counter-productive later in life. You want them to look at visiting the dentist as something they should do without reward.
- Schedule a “play day” at the dentist office – Most dental offices that treat children will have some sort of activity or attraction to keep their mind off seeing the dentist. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by the office with your kids and let them play with the toys or show them the fish tank in the waiting room. Chances are they will ask you soon after when they can go back to “find Nemo” or play with the toys in the waiting room. This is also a good time for the parent to schedule an appointment or ask questions.
- Avoid the details – Children are curious and will ask many questions about going to the dentist. It is important to provide enough information to prepare them, but not enough for them to get caught up in all the details, which may lead to anxiety. Keep the details to a minimum and try to answer their questions with a question that will put them in a calm mindset. Easy-peasy, right?
- Don’t take them to your appointment – Out of necessity you may be tempted to take your little one to the dentist with you or talk about going to the dentist as a negative thing. Try to avoid this because it could backfire the next time you want to take them to their dental appointment. Kids pick up on anxiety in adults and typically know when their parents are uncomfortable. This can make them feel sad or uneasy. If they overhear your talking about being scared to get a root canal, it can give them dental phobia that can carry over into adulthood.
- Have a backup plan – It’s normal for young children to be fussy so it’s always a good idea for the parents to meet the dental hygienist and dentist prior to the visit and share some information about the child. Tell them about brothers and sisters, their new puppy or a detail about their favorite Disney character. This way if there is a fussy moment, your dentist can talk about things your little one can relate to. Just changing their mindset for one moment can stop the tears and eliminate anxiety.