42% of children between 10 and 14 years old have dental anxiety. Although you’re an adult, you may be all too familiar with dental fear as well.
If you want better for your kids, then you’ll have to reinforce positive thoughts with dental offices at a young age.
Not sure where to start? Then keep reading. Here are 8 tips for kids overcoming their dental fears.
1. Don’t Get Into Too Many Details
While you always want to be honest and straightforward with your kids, you shouldn’t go too overboard with details. This is especially true if you’re bringing them to their first dental appointment.
If you give them too many details, your children may start having unnecessary anxiety, and it may raise more questions instead of quelling them.
2. Choose Your Words Carefully
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Depending on what you say, this may cause your kids to have more anxiety about going to the dentist.
If you mention anything painful, such as shots or even the word “pain” itself, this can cause them to panic and expect the worst for their appointment.
Instead, you should address potential dental issues in a lighter matter. Explain that the dentist is a good guy who’s looking for the sugar baddies in their mouths.
Also, you should let them know that the dentist is going to help their teeth grow to be strong and healthy. The more positive and reinforcing words you use, the better.
3. Don’t Make False Promises
While you want to make sure your kids have positive associations with the dentist, you don’t want to overshoot on your promises. This means don’t tell them that everything will be alright.
It may seem like an innocuous statement, but it may backfire on you. If it turns out that your kids need to get some serious dental work done, this may make them lose trust in both you and the dentist. As a result, this can cause major issues for future visits.
4. Play Dentist at Home
Everything’s a bit more fun if your kids can make it into a game! Playing dentist at home is no exception.
Either you or your kids can be the dentist, and the patient can be either one of you or a stuffed animal. You should demonstrate on your children or stuffed animals what the dentist will do. Make sure they understand that everything will be nice and gentle.
Having them play as the dentist will also give them a sense of control. Many times, kids are scared of dental appointments because there’s a huge unknown. By eliminating that factor, you’ll make them more comfortable and confident, and the anxiety will melt away.
5. Don’t Bribe Your Kids
Yes, it’s good to reward your children with good behavior. But before the visit, don’t say something like: “If you’re good, I’ll give you some candy after!”
If you make a statement like this, your kids may wonder about what’s so terrible at the dentist’s office that they’ll need a reward afterward. Plus, you may be sending a contradictory message, since the dentist will probably tell them to stay away from sweets.
If your children behave really well at the dentist, then feel free to reward them afterward. Just make sure you don’t mention this beforehand. Also, you’ll want to give them something that won’t ruin their oral hygiene; consider getting them a small toy instead.
6. Avoid Telling “War Stories”
If you’re a fan of tough love, then you may feel like telling your kids about your dental “war stories” and how you survived them. If you could get through it, they can, right?
But telling them all about the drilling and the pain you survived can backfire terribly. Your children will just remember the terrifying parts of your story and dread going to the dentist even more.
The best thing to do is to refrain from telling them any “war stories” and to keep everything positive.
7. Emphasize the Importance of Oral Hygiene
There’s a wrong way and a right way to go about this.
The wrong way would be to place emphasis on oral hygiene because their teeth will rot and fall out if they don’t take good care of them. Your children will feel like oral hygiene is a chore in this case.
The good way to go about this is to make it clear that their teeth need to stay healthy and strong to give them a beautiful smile and to eat and speak comfortably. Make sure your children know the dentist is an ally, not an enemy.
8. Bring Them to a Pediatric Dentist
While regular dentists can certainly take care of your children’s dental issues properly, it may not be the best environment for them.
Adult dental offices often look quite sterile, which can be daunting for younger children. Pediatric dental offices are usually decorated with bright colors and fun toys to be more appealing to kids.
Also, pediatric dentists will know how to deal with children better than a regular dentist. They’ll be equipped to deal with scared kids, as well as ones throwing tantrums.
If you need more help on helping your kids overcome their fear of dentists, this article by Brushin on Belmont is a great resource to turn to.
Kids Overcoming Their Fear of Dentists Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
Kids overcoming their fear of dentists may seem like a daunting task, but with the right support and positive reinforcement, the anxiety will soon be a thing of the past.
So long as you’re loving and patient with your children, plus you set a good example, your kids can learn to have a good relationship with their dentist. This can set the stage for excellent dental hygiene for years to come.
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