Taking a child to the dentist is challenging for many parents. It’s a new and uncomfortable experience for the child, and maybe even the parent. They’re in a strange place with new people poking around inside their mouths with shiny, scary-looking objects — that’s enough to make anyone nervous!
Here are some tips you can use to keep your young child calm and comfortable when they come in for their visits.
6. Talk about the dentist
Talking about the dentist and what it’s like to go to an appointment is a great way to prepare your kid for their next visit. That way, they’ll understand where they’re going and what’s happening when the time comes, and they’re already familiar with the concept of a friendly dentist making sure that their teeth are healthy.
5. Start when they're young
Start a regular tooth-brushing routine when your child is old enough. We also suggest bringing them to one of your own appointments when they reach about 18 months — let them sit on your lap so they can see what going to the dentist is all about. Establishing these habits early helps your kid get used to the routines associated with taking care of their teeth and going to the dentist.
Keep in mind that children don’t need regular dental checkups until they reach about 2-3 years old. The only reason to bring them in to the office earlier is if you’re bringing them to experience one of your appointments, or if you notice something is wrong and they’re in need of dental care.
4. No surprise appointments
Make sure to let your children know when they have a dentist appointment coming up. Giving them a heads-up about 2 weeks before their visit gives them the opportunity to mentally prepare, ask any questions, and express any feelings about going to the dentist.
3. Choose a practice you trust
Find a practice that you like for the whole family, and stick with them! Seeing you trust the dentist with your teeth can help your child feel more calm and reassured about their own visits. Plus, consistently going to the same dentist establishes a sense of routine and trust.
2. Be mindful of your words
Words like “hurt,” “shot,” and “pain” can be scary — try to avoid these and similar words or phrases when talking about dentist visits with your kids. Instead, focus on using more positive language like “clean, strong, healthy teeth” to make the visit seem more fun and exciting.
And remember that kids pick up on non-verbal cues, too. Be aware of how you act and speak about your own upcoming dentist appointments around them, and try to keep things positive.
1. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst
Even when you do everything right, sometimes your child will just be in a rough mood and have a difficult time at their appointment. It’s okay — it happens, and there’s nothing wrong with that. While you hope for the best, still be prepared to calm their nerves.
Establishing trust and routines are great ways to make your child feel more at ease during their dental appointments. There are plenty of ways you can reassure them and even make the dentist seem like a fun place to be! But don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’ve tried everything you can, and your child is still scared or overwhelmed. These tips can help, but don’t forget that it’s okay to have off days, too!
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