Are your kids afraid of the dentist? The more important question may be are you afraid of the dentist? Remember that kids are a blank page; they get their cues from the adults around them. If you have had bad experiences, do not share them! It is up to you to set the scene for a positive attitude towards the dentist. Here are our tips for making trips to the dentist as successful as possible:
Take preventative action: Ensure your kids have good dental health through regular brushing. Don’t forget to make sure the toothbrush is wet (i.e. been used) versus taking your kids word for it! Most dentists agree that kids under the age of 6 or 7 don’t have the physical dexterity to brush properly so it’s best if parents or the babysitter help them out with that task!
Use positive language: Introducing the concept of ‘pain’ through language such as ‘it won’t hurt that much’ will plant the seed in your child’s brain that it could hurt. Don’t do it!
Take a rested kid: Any activity becomes more challenging when your child is not well rested and out of sorts. Schedule appointments for times when your child will be well rested.
If your child is already wary of the dentist or struggles with new environments:
Alert the dentist and his staff to your child’s worries so they can be sensitive to them. Some dentists will talk through what will happen with kids before starting to there are no surprises. Some dentists also use child-friendly words for the tools such as a ‘whistle’ rather than a ‘drill’.
Visit the dentist office in advance and take pictures of the office and dentist chair. Take your kids on a ‘virtual’ tour of the office, explaining the people who are there and what will happen.
Listen to your child’s concerns and talk them through together.
There are different views on whether to ‘reward’ kids after visiting the dentist. Some believe that a reward is positive reinforcement. Others believe that going to the dentist should be ‘just something you do’, with no fanfare required. Whatever you decide, it is probably best to provide a reward that is something other than a sugary snack!