Fear is a basic survival mechanism that everyone is born with. It is what we are afraid of that is absorbed from the environment around us. If you have a crippling fear of the dentist, you may be unconsciously teaching your child to fear the dentist too. Trips to the dentist may include crying and you might think the only way to fix the problem is to skip your kid’s dental appointments.
Avoiding the dentist is not the right way to help children overcome their fear. In fact, avoiding the dentist can make their fear worse and skipping out on regular visits can cause a minor problem to turn into a major problem that requires major (sometimes painful) work. If your child suffers from dental phobia, here are a few tips to help make your next trip to the dentist a pleasant one:
- Visit the dentist by age 1 – If you have dentophobia and are worried that you might pass that on to your baby, remember to take him/her for the first dental visit by age 1. An early introduction to the dentist will reinforce a lifelong commitment to oral health and ease fears as children get older.
- Communicate – Talk to your child about the dentist visit. Ask what he liked, what he didn’t like and answer any questions he has. A discussion with the dentist after the appointment may make your child more comfortable.
- Familiarize your child with the environment – Take your child for a visit to the dentist when you don’t have an appointment. Set up an hour or two for your child to watch the dentist and other kids receiving treatment. Watching calmer kids might help ease your child’s fear.
- Use the right language – Avoid using phrases like “don’t be afraid” and “stay calm” or words like “shot” and “pain.” Even if used in a positive context, these words can instill fear in your child.
- Avoid bribery– If you offer a reward for a visit to the dentist, it could make your kiddo think that something bad must be waiting at the dentist’s office, especially if you offer something not normally allowed. A better idea is to praise your child after the appointment for good behavior. An “I went to the dentist” sticker will never hurt either.
Visiting the dentist is a task that needs to be performed two times a year, forever. An early introduction to the dentist will only help your child maintain beautiful, healthy teeth later in life.