Easing Your Child’s Fear of Dentists

The regular dentist trip can be a scary experience for your child. It’s an unfamiliar and strange place and if he or she is still very young, they may also think it’s going to hurt. We grown-ups usually go through more dramatic procedures, which your child may have seen you recover from in the past – so it’s no wonder they often fear that chair a bit.

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Your can help them a lot to prepare for the first visits, though, both through role-playing and by setting a good example. Here are a few of the best tricks out there to make the next trip to the pediatric a lot more pleasant.

Be a good role model

Some experts suggest you should bring your kid along the next time your annual appointment is due, but it’s a good idea first to consider the treatments you might need.

Children’s routine appointments are much easier, quicker, and with less work involved; making them watch you go through longer procedures may be unnecessary unless you put up an excellent poker face.

Instead, talk about it with them afterwards, mentioning how clean your teeth feel and how friendly the dentist is. Be a good role model, in general, too by taking proper care of your own teeth, floss every day, and teach them the ropes to great dental hygiene. It’s the kind of parenting stuff that truly pays off in the future.

Use role-playing

Role play can be particularly useful for children as it helps to prepare them for the visit in a safe and fun way. Set up a pretend dentist chair, see if you can get ahold of one of those cool little dentist set, and let your child examine your teeth, their sibling’s teeth or whoever their next client might be.

He or she needs to pretend to be the client as well, though, and it’s a great opportunity for you to talk them through what the different tools and treatments may feel like.

Count their teeth, explain how the tooth polisher cleans their teeth, and that it may tickle. Don’t use the word ‘hurt’ or anything that can trigger negative associations, and keep it fun – it’s play-pretend, after all.

The wonders of positive reinforcement

When children are scared of something that’s not actually dangerous, they need to be comforted as well as distracted. Hold their hand and join them inside the dentist office to comfort them, use humor the best you can to distract them – and make them look forward to those fun little toy they usually get from their pediatric dentist afterwards for being so brave.

To talk about positive things, such as toys, helps to distract them from distressing thoughts as much as working as an investment for the future. Although they would be given a toy regardless of their level of bravery when facing the dentist, the nice little treat at the end of the session will make it easier for them to cope with future visits.

It’s positive reinforcements at it’s best, and by the time your child has outgrown toys, they’ll be old enough to pretend to be brave – just like we have to do.


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