How to Help a Child With a Fear of the Dentist

Studies show that around 16% of children have a fear of the dentist. The severity of this fear is dependent on the child, but, in any of these cases, it can be difficult to help the child to get over their fear.

Fortunately, there are strategies available to assist in that very thing. Without further ado, here’s what to do when dealing with a child who’s nervous of dentist appointments.

Start ‘Em Early

Perhaps the best way to stave off childhood nervousness over dental visits is to start ’em early. Bringing your child to the dentist for the first time when they’re, say, 1 is much easier than bringing them for the first time when they’re, say, 4.

This is so for several reasons. For one, 1-year-olds’ brains are less developed than 4-year-olds’ brains, and therefore, the 1-year-olds are less prone to anxiety over dental experiences.

In addition, by starting your child early, you ensure that dental visits are seen as a given. The child will know them as a necessary part of their healthcare maintenance, and therefore will have less resistance toward them.

Ideally, you’ll get your child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts. This typically occurs a few months before the child’s first birthday.

Choose the Right Dentist

Not all dentists are created equal. Some dentists are serious and curt with their patients; other dentists welcome them with conversation and open arms. And, of course, different dentists work in different specializations.

As such, as a means of curbing your child’s fear of the dentist, you need to make sure to pick the right one. Specifically, you need to find a pediatric dentist. However, apart from that, you need to find a pediatric dentist whose personality would align with your child’s emotional needs.

Call around to different pediatric dentists in your area and ask to speak with the dentist over the phone. Get a feel for each choice and try to pick the one that best suits your child. Your child’s experience will go much more smoothly if their dentist is capable of helping them through it every step of the way.

In short, finding a good dentist office for kids will go a long way in easing your child’s anxiety on the day of the appointment.

Have Your Child Meet Their Dentist Before the Appointment

Having a stranger poke and prod at your teeth isn’t always the most fulfilling of experiences. Even some adults struggle with it. For a child who’s nervous about going to the dentist, it can be pure dread.

This is why, before your child’s appointment, you should have them meet their dentist in person. This way, on the day of the appointment, your child will no longer see the dentist as a stranger but as someone, they’ve met and had a positive experience with before.

Most pediatric dental offices will have no problem scheduling a quick meetup before your child’s appointment. So, call ahead and try to make it happen. It could make a world of difference.

Play Pretend

Another way to ease the fears of a child who’s afraid of the dentist is to play pretend. Have your child sit down in a recliner and simulate the motions of a dentist cleaning their teeth. Then, once you’ve done so, reverse and have your child do it to you.

This can help to turn the dental experience into a fun one as opposed to a scary and anxiety-inducing one. Your child will have an idea as to what they’re getting into and won’t be as nervous as they would be otherwise.

Stay Positive

When getting your child ready for the dentist, the last thing you want to do is put negativity in their head. As such, you need to stay as positive as possible. You can do this in several ways.

For one, avoid negative language. Don’t mention anything about pain; don’t talk about how uncomfortable it might be. Just talk about what’s going to happen in as neutral a way as possible.

In addition, act excited on the day of the appointment. Put a smile on your face, get your energy up, and try to get your child psyched for their new experience. Seeing mom or dad in a good mood is sure to help get them in a good mood as well.

Lastly, promise a treat or celebration for after the appointment. Receiving a special snack or getting to go to a fun center might be just the thing that your child needs to inspire their bravery.

Talk to Your Child

Odds are, if your child has never been to the dentist before, they’re going to have a question or two about what the trip will entail. They’re also likely to express their feelings about the impending experience.

As the parent, you need to talk with your child and answer as many questions as possible. Be realistic about what the appointment will entail but encouraging every step of the way.

The more your child knows about the appointment, the more they’ll be able to prepare themself and the easier the experience will be. Be open and honest, listen, and make sure your child feels heard.

Being Nervous of Dentist Appointments Is Perfectly Normal

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that being nervous of dentist appointments is perfectly normal, especially for kids. So, if you’re dealing with a nervous dental patient with a fear of the dentist, make sure to put these tips into action. They’re sure to ease your child’s mind and create a positive dental experience.

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