This is a bigger issue than you might think.
It’s one thing to have a childhood fear, but it’s another to develop dental anxiety.
Dental anxiety keeps about 20% of adult Americans away from the dentist unless they absolutely have to go. Still, 5-8% avoid the dentist at all costs.
As a parent, you can ensure your child doesn’t become overwhelmed by their nerves. It all starts with the first visit.
Here’s everything you need to know about the role you play in dentistry for kids.
1. Go Sooner Rather Than Later
Don’t wait until the tooth fairy has made a few visits to start thinking about going to the dentist.
In fact, a good time to go is when the first tooth has come in.
Some parents talk about teething with their pediatrician, but who better than a person who specializes in this?
The quicker you include dentistry for kids on top of their regular health checkups, the better. This gets them used to the dentist before they can even get nervous.
More so, it gives them familiar faces to look forward to. This community will come in handy should they ever have a dental emergency.
2. Speak With Care
If you are past the point of teething, it’s not too late to kill the nerves.
The important thing now is to speak with as much care as possible. Your positive attitude will affect how your child feels.
But, try not to promise anything you can’t guarantee.
Don’t say things like “it won’t hurt at all” or “there’s nothing to worry about.”
Sometimes, there will be a little pain if your child has sensitive teeth. Or, the dentist might find there’s a condition that needs further treatment.
Avoid over-promising so your child doesn’t lose trust in going to the dentist, or in you.
3. Do Not Try Bribing
Another thing to avoid is bribery.
Your child might not even have any nerves until you bring it up.
To them, “if you behave well we’ll go to the park” gives reason to ask, “why wouldn’t I behave?” It plants a dangerous seed about dentistry for kids and the fears associated.
This is even worse if you offer sweets or candy because it contradicts what the dentist says.
4. Try Pretending
There is one good way to set expectations, though. Have a pretend dentist appointment!
Bringing dentistry for kids into the home like this can help significantly.
Get your child’s toothbrush and count teeth together. Have them show you how they brush their teeth, and tell them to take a look in the mirror like a dentist might.
You can even suggest they pretend to be the dentist on a stuffed animal or a doll.
5. Fight Fussing With Education
If your child still feels nervous after playing pretend, they might start to get fussy.
A fuss is a kid’s last resort to get what they want. They will whine, cry, or even stomp their way into a dentist’s office.
Mentally prepare the both of you for this with dental education at home.
Show your child how to keep a good dental routine.
This includes regular teeth brushing, flossing, and rinsing well. It also means easing off a sucking habit and keeping sugary or starchy foods to a minimum.
Putting so many rules in place works better when you share their purpose.
Common benefits of good dental habits include less staining, less chance of cavities, and healthy gums. Remind your children how much prettier their smile will be when they take care of it.
Maybe even hint at the need for fewer dentist appointments, but remember tip #3.
Beyond a nice, healthy smile, parents should be aware of other factors at play:
- Tooth decay is five times more common than asthma in children
- Poor dentistry for kids can result in poor nutrition and sleeping problems
- Over 51 million hours at school are lost to dentist appointments each year
Although you don’t need to tell your kids these hard facts, they’re worth considering as a parent.
6. Explain What the Dentist Does
Use your education time to talk about the dentist’s procedure on top of covering good habits.
Here are a few things to mention:
When your child meets their dentist for the first time, they are essentially making a new friend.
This is someone who will follow their growth for many years.
Take the introduction as an opportunity for your child to practice introducing themselves. Something as simple as shifting their focus to their name and age can keep nerves at bay.
Learning the Ropes
After meeting their dentist, most professionals will break down each tool they use.
Many child dentists have fun oversized models of a set of teeth and big toothbrush.
Prepare your child to go over brushing and to tell the dentist how often they brush. To do this without overcomplicating things, you can just say the dentist has special toys to talk about.
Getting a Cleaning
If your child seems comfortable so far, you can briefly go over a cleaning.
Tell them the dentist is going to make their teeth even brighter and healthier. Explain how food can get stuck in between teeth and that a dentist knows how to get it out.
You might want to skip explaining all the tools used, though. Better safe than sorry when it comes to fighting nerves!
Choose an Office Specialized in Dentistry for Kids
The final step to ensure the ultimate comfort is to make an appointment with someone who specializes in dentistry for kids.
Your regular dentist is not always this person.
Some offices practice family dentistry while others only operate on kids or adults. Make sure you know what kind of dentist you’re going to.
Luckily, Ideal Dentistry does it all!
We are your go-to Braunfels office for many dental services.
Contact us today to take the first step of your child’s dental journey and set up an appointment.