Being afraid of going to the dentist is nothing unusual, for both children and adults. Almost 20% of children have dental anxiety. Those children generally have a harder time with oral hygiene, which can then lead to even more dental work, creating a snowball effect.
Instead of negative reinforcement, we want our children to associate the dentist and dental hygiene with positive reinforcement and rewards. Your children deserve healthy teeth and gums and a lifetime without dental problems. Join our team as we discuss some top tips for helping your child overcome dental anxiety.
You may be wondering, “How early should my child visit the dentist?” The American Dental Association urges parents to bring their child to the dentist whenever the first tooth erupts, or by the age of one.
Starting at a young age with a simple checkup lets your child gradually become accustomed to dental visits. Rewarding them for visiting can reinforce a positive association. However, be careful not to use bribes, such as, “You can have a piece of candy if you visit the dentist.” Instead, offer small rewards such as stickers when they accomplish tasks like brushing their teeth. A reward at the end of the visit can help reinforce their memories of the experience as positive.
Take photos of your child at the dentist so you can show them later. If your children are hesitant to visit the dentist, you can show them these pictures and they may feel comforted seeing themselves at the dentist when they were younger. They may think “if I can do that when I was younger, I’m surely big enough to handle it now!”
Give them a heads up
The more your child can mentally prepare for a visit, the better. Waiting until the last moment to tell them about a dental visit can be detrimental. Let your children know when to expect a dental visit, and you can pep them up leading up to it and help talk through any of their fears.
Be upfront about what to expect. Try not to use words such as “hurt”, “scary”, or “pain”, even if it’s to say “It won’t hurt.” You know how it feels to hear “don’t worry!” when you’re stressed? The only word you focus on is “worry” and how it seems impossible not to.
Educate your child on dentistry
Getting your child excited by oral hygiene can be a difficult task, but not an impossible one. Start by teaching them why teeth are so important: they help us eat, talk, and smile! When kids understand how healthy teeth improve their lives, they are more inclined to take care of them.
Try brushing your teeth with your child, demonstrating proper technique. Make it fun for them with a flashy light-up toothbrush. They may be less afraid of going to the dentist. With healthy teeth, there won’t be much scary dental work for them to have to suffer, so the positive reinforcement loop snowballs upwards towards enjoying dental visits instead of downwards towards fearing them.
Schedule a pre-appointment visit
Take your child to the dentist before their appointment, just so they can familiarize themselves with the environment. Ask the staff to give you and your child a tour. When they see that the dentist’s office isn’t a scary place, and that it’s actually filled with friendly, kind people, they will be more at ease during their next visit.
Get your kids excited for dentistry
At our practice, we provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere for children. Our dentists and staff are friendly, fun, and love kids. We do our best to get them interested or even excited by dentistry. Give us a call at 559-784-6523 or send us a message to set up an appointment today!