If your trip to the dentist is accompanied by constant crying and screaming, you’re not alone. For many children, the dentist office is the worse place imaginable. Though you dread the temper tantrums, you know that the regular visits to the dental office is important for their health.
There are many reasons children are afraid of the dentist. They may have seen or heard you or someone else complain about a dental procedure and exaggerate the intensity of the experience. The dentist could have found a cavity during the last visit and reprimanded the child. They can also simply be highly sensitive and get upset with the unpleasant sounds, smells, tastes and lighting. For other children, it can be unnerving having strangers prod around inside their mouths.
Regardless of the cause of your child’s fear of the dentist, there are some ways to make going to the dentist less scary:
Find a good pediatric dentist. Whether you’re taking your child to the dentist for the first time or you’ve recently moved to a new city, do some research and meet with multiple pediatric dentists. Choose one you think will be compatible with your child and fit your family’s dental needs and take your dental insurance. Once you made a decision, take your child only to that pediatric dentist. Your child will become less scared as they become more familiar seeing the same dentist and office staff.
Offer a reward. Give your child a prize following each time they make it through their dental appointment without a meltdown or each time they are found to be cavity-free. Prizes can be simple and include giving your child stickers, money, a small toy or allow them to choose what’s for dinner or lunch. Make sure that the prize is something your child will enjoy.
Make a day of it. Give your child something to look forward to after his or her dental appointment. Let them choose what they want to do after their appointment. Going to the park, the movies, the arcade, the zoo or skating rink are possible ideas.
Accompany your child. If your child is young and you’re taking them in for their first, second or third dental office visit, ask if you can accompany your child to the room. Some dentists allow a parent to sit by their child in the dental chair, while other dentists discourage such attached behavior.
Ask about relaxants. Dental anxiety is a real condition that can be debilitating. Many pediatric dentists offer what is called oral conscious sedation. These mild sedatives keep the child awake and alert, but it relaxes and calms them. Oral conscious sedation often comes in the form of a pill that is taken before arriving at the dentist office or in the form of laughing gas.
Starting your child early on a good oral hygiene routine that includes regular visits to the dental office can lower a child’s anxiety of the dentist. Children who learn early on about the importance of healthy teeth and gums and how to take care of them will also have a lower chance of getting cavities, so they can go to each dental appointment with confidence, not fear.
Regular visits to the dentist office is necessary for your child to have good oral health and gums and it’s important to teach them that the dentist office isn’t a place to be afraid of. Rewarding your child after a successful office visit with a toy or a fun experience afterwards, getting them use to the dental staff and office environment and looking into relaxation/sedation options are some ways you can give your child a more pleasant dental experience that will make them better enjoy the trip to the dentist.