Sometimes, no matter what you do, children become a little fearful of the dentist. It may happen because they hear something from friends or family. It can happen if they’re at the dentist and another child is having a problem. It can also happen naturally because dental cleaning can be an uncomfortable process, especially if there are a few issues.
You can help reduce your child’s fear of the dentist with a few basic steps.
1. Prepare Them
Prepare your child for the appointment. Some children really need to know what to expect from various outings. When they know what to expect, they can prepare themselves mentally and physically for the experience. You can tell your child is one of these people if they often misbehave when something happens spontaneously.
For example, watch your child when you go to the supermarket. If you prepare them for the outing and tell them exactly what to expect, what you expect of them, and why you’re going, they may behave differently than if you spontaneously run to the store.
Become aware of your child’s personality and needs. If they need to know what to expect, then be sure to prepare them for their appointment well in advance.
For example, if they have an appointment on Friday, you might tell them on Wednesday that they have a dentist appointment coming up and you might give a brief rundown or reminder of what is going to happen.
On Friday you’ll tell them again and you might spend a few more minutes going over what to expect. Ask them about what they remember from the last appointment.
2. Reward/Distract Them
You can also take the attention away from the dental appointment by focusing on an activity after the visit, and we'll talk more about that later. For example, you might schedule a playdate for after the dental appointment or a trip to the zoo. This way your child is able to focus on the
fun rather than the fear. The activity can be a reward for a good trip to the dentist, or it can simply be a distraction.
Decide which works best for your child and your situation. Keep in mind that if your child is fearful of the dentist, a reward may not be the best approach because it might add more stress and pressure than your child can handle.
3. Schedule It When They’re Not Going to Be Tired
Finally, try to schedule the appointment when your child is generally at their best. For example, if your child is not a morning person then a seven o’clock appointment isn’t a great idea.
If they take naps at noon then you might schedule their appointment for after their nap. We’re generally better able to manage our fears when we’re not tired and can think more clearly and rationally.
Sometimes children are simply fearful of the dentist. Try to talk to your child about their fears.
Help them learn what to expect and give them something positive to focus on. Next, we’ll talk about how to prepare your child for their first dental appointment.