There are many adults who find the prospect of a visit to the dentist to be anxiety-inducing, so it’s understandable when children are fearful of the dentist, too.
But while it’s easy to sympathize with a little one who is reluctant to come in for a simple check-up, it’s imperative that they work through their fear in order to maintain good oral health. If you get them started from a young age, they can develop habits that can keep their teeth healthy and their smile bright throughout their lives.
So what do you do when your child hates the dentist? Check out the following tips.
Start Oral Care While They’re Young
If you can make dental visits into a normal thing from a very young age, your child is far less likely to develop a fear. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should start seeing the dentist regularly within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, and no later than the age of 1.
Following these guidelines is not only conducive to maintaining optimal oral health in your child, but it will also help to prevent dental anxiety.
Use Positive Language
It’s not only important that you avoid saying things that might make your child fearful of their dental visit, but you must also use the kind of language that can paint a visit to the dentist as something positive.
For example, saying that you “get” to go to the dentist, rather than you “have” to go can be beneficial. You might also say that the visit will make them healthy and both of you happy.
Visit the Dentist Before Your First Appointment
Acclimating your child to the dentist’s office by having a preliminary visit before any exams or procedures are performed is always a good idea. That way, when they do enter the office for a real appointment, they won’t be taken by surprise. After all, the dentist and dental staff won’t be total strangers to them!
Lead by Example
Your words, actions, and expressions are constantly being watched by your child. If you are distressed by a dental visit, then they will be, too. In order to ensure that they remain calm and comfortable, show them that you are calm and comfortable (and even happy to be there).
Reward Them for Being Brave
Positive reinforcement is always the way to a child’s heart. If you offer a reward in exchange for facing their fears and behaving well, they will be far more likely to see it through and have a successful dental appointment.
Rewards can be something small, like their favorite treat, or something bigger, like a new toy. Ultimately, the positive reinforcement can help create a positive association with the dentist for years to come.
Take Them to a Pediatric Dentist
Choosing a practice that specializes in serving families is the best way to make sure that your child is comfortable at each and every dentist’s appointment. With a building designed to look less like an office and more like a home and a staff that is well-versed in working with children, a pediatric dentist can put both you and your child at ease.
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