If your child is afraid of the dentist, they’re not alone. In fact, a majority of adults have a fear of the dentist –- as many as 75% -- according to the Dental Fears Research clinic at the University of Washington. This anxiety is primarily caused by a bad experience of his or her own during childhood. But such fears are unfounded, and helping to make your child comfortable during their visit is the best way to ensure a positive experience for everyone. What are some of the ways you can help?
- Don’t Teach them to be Scared: One thing you have to realize is that fear of the dentist isn’t passed with mother’s milk. It’s an acquired fear. Ironically enough, parents are often the ones most responsible for teaching this fear to their unsuspecting offprings. Remember, kids don’t know they’re supposed to be scared. The first visit to a dentist is the same to them as going to a circus or a science museum. There are flashing lights, toys and masked people all around.
- Read a Book: A trip to your local library will provide a number of titles that will help your child understand how the dentist helps keep their teeth healthy and clean.
- Role Play: Help your child develop a positive attitude toward the dentist while having fun at the same time. Plan a make-believe trip to the dentist in your own living room. Keep it light and explain to them what their visit will be like. Whether it’s a routine cleaning, x-ray, or even a filling, knowing what to expect in advance will make the real trip much easier.
- Distract Them: Bring along a favorite toy or game for your child to play with. Keeping them occupied helps to keep their mind in a happy place.
- Positive Reinforcement: If your child has a positive experience at the dentist office, reward their good behavior with a trip to the zoo or another favorite spot. Next time they will look forward to going to the dentist!
Regular check ups and cleanings are key to a healthy mouth. With scheduled visits for proactive dental care, more serious problems and issues can be avoided altogether, and the dentist’s office might never need to be scary again.