How to Make Sure Your Child Isn't Afraid of the Dentist

Thousands of adults across the United States avoid routine dental visits due to anxiety or fear of the dentist. With simple communication and some preparation, you can help eliminate these negative feelings before they even start. Here are some tips for how to talk to your child about their dental check-up and set them up for a life of healthy teeth.

Lead by Example

Teach your child that going to the dentist is a necessity, not a choice. Don’t let them see you be nervous about the dentist. Show them how to brush and floss their teeth properly and let them see you do it too. Start this at a young age before they even have teeth by dipping a piece of gauze in water and wiping it along their gums then graduating to a soft baby toothbrush.

Keep it Positive

Be honest about the dentist while also being positive. Avoid mentioning “pain”, “shots”, or “hurt” words, this puts the idea in their head that there is something to fear. Let the dentist and assistants use our own vocabulary to help them understand. If you’re looking for something to tell them, simply let them know we count their teeth and check their smile.

Make it Into a Game

Role-playing is a great way to show your child that the dentist is nothing to be afraid of! Have fun with it and take turns lying on a chair pretending to be the dentist. By making it seem enjoyable and letting them know what usually happens, it helps them to not be afraid when the time comes. Avoid using fake drilling sounds or lining up other “instruments”, this makes it scary.

Start Taking Them to the Dentist Right Away

The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend a child’s first visit to the dentist should be when the first tooth is visible in the mouth or no later than age one. This has two benefits: your child becomes familiar with the dentist and it also allows us to make sure there aren’t any dental issues present.

Reward Them

After visiting their appointment, make sure you tell them how brave they are and how proud of them you are. Words of encouragement from a parent can go a long way. You may want to give them a small toy or prize. If you do, don’t mention the prize before the visit, this could increase anxiety and make them wonder why it would be a bad experience. Avoid using candy or sugary treats as a reward since this sends the wrong message about caring for your teeth!

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