For young children, seeing an unfamiliar face can be a frightening prospect to behold. And to adjust to. Especially when sterile garments can be mistaken for something strange and scary. Perhaps it’s for this reason that kids and hospitals don’t get along. Or dental offices, for that matter. That said, how can you help kids overcome their fear of the dentist?
As with all things unfamiliar, the best strategy lies is to translate the experience into something they understand. While you probably shouldn’t scare them with stories about whirring devices or a cold metal feeling in their mouths, there are other ways you can keep your child interested. And without alarming them.
So how can you help kids overcome their fear of the dentist? Here are a few things you can try:
- Get them familiar as soon as possible
Most dental professionals share the belief that children must have their teeth checked once they emerge. But some parents may opt to take their kids to the dentist at a much later age. Aside from the detrimental effects this might have on your kids’ teeth, another reason why you shouldn’t delay their dental appointment is that it serves as the first building block towards their dental foundation.But this doesn’t limit itself to the dental prescription. When you take your child to the dentist early, you also start getting them familiar with the sensation, and ultimately the dentist themselves. Early intervention, then, can potentially clear up any problems with fussiness or fears down the line while aiding in your child’s oral health.
- Break it down to your child’s level
As with all things kid-related, be sure to simplify things when you explain why your child is going to the dentist. Particularly if you’re bringing them in at a later age. The more complicated the explanation is, the more confused your child may get. And the more confused your child may get, the scarier the dental office might be.That said, take time to break down what to expect during the appointment into digestible pieces. But make sure you don’t get their hopes up too much. If something falls through, like a cavity treatment, this might shatter their expectations and add more to their anxiety.
- Talk about it positively
When simplifying what to expect, you might run the risk of using blunter words. As much as possible, avoid using words that have potentially negative connotations. And if you use a personal experience to explain it to them further, be sure to check if you have dental anxiety of your own. You might be accidentally projecting them when you do make the explanations, so be wary of this technique.
- Reinforce, don’t bribe
Previously, we talked about the importance of reinforcement in quelling a kid’s dental fears. However, done the wrong way, this may backfire. Bribing, for instance, might give your child the idea that they’ll be undergoing a situation that warrants a reward. Instead, you can reinforce a positive outlook on their dental appointments by offering a small surprise after their dental work.