Going to the dentist can be a scary experience for kids, but it doesn't have to be.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should visit the dentist by their first birthday. Regular dental checkups are essential for maintaining good oral health, and many parents wonder how to make the experience a positive one for their kids.
This article is packed with ideas for how you can help make the visit to the dentist a fun and stress-free experience for your child.
Here we'll provide our top tips to assist your child in feeling at ease and self-assured during their upcoming dental visit.
Start When They’re Young.
More and more parents are starting young when it comes to their child's dental health.
Experts recommend that children should visit the dentist by their first birthday or when the first tooth is visible. This helps create a “dental home” where all of the child’s needs may be addressed, whether in preventative visits or emergency care.
It also helps ensure that problems are spotted while they are still small rather than being allowed to develop into bigger issues over time (1).
Dentists can also provide parents with detailed advice on how best to look after their children's teeth. Questions such as how often children should brush, the right type of toothbrush to use, and what kind of dental products would best suit their needs can all be answered.
Since children grow so quickly, regular check-ups help monitor their development and ensure they maintain healthy teeth throughout childhood and beyond.
Practice At Home.
Children often learn by example, so leading by example when it comes to caring for teeth can help ensure that they develop good hygiene habits from a young age.
Be sure to brush and floss together at least twice daily, as this helps children understand the importance of oral health care. If possible, also make sure to visit the dentist every six months with your child for regular checkups.
This way, your child will understand that going to the dentist isn’t scary or painful but rather an important part of staying healthy and taking care of their teeth (1).
Additionally, you can show your kids how fun and enjoyable dental visits can be. You can talk about the importance of keeping teeth healthy in a positive manner and reassure them that going to the dentist is nothing to fear (2).
By modeling proper oral health care habits and discussing them in a positive light, you can help prepare your child for successful dental visits in the future.
Do A Test Run.
Creating a make-believe dental office can help your child feel more comfortable (3).
Use a favorite stuffed animal to act out what will happen during their appointment. Let your child take a turn being the dentist with a stuffed animal.
When role-playing, explain the importance of oral hygiene and how it helps your child to grow healthy and strong.
Listen to Their Fears.
Take the time to listen to your child's feelings and any worries that they may have about going to the dentist. Allowing them to express their concerns helps alleviate a lot of anxiety they're feeling right off the bat (4).
Listen and provide reassurance that going to the dentist is a safe experience. Let them know that it's okay if they feel scared or anxious and that you are there with them every step.
Tell Them in Advance About the Upcoming Visit.
Talking about the dentist and having an open dialogue with your child is the best way to make sure that they understand what's happening and why it's important. Explaining to them that their dentist is there to help keep their teeth healthy and strong can help foster positive feelings about the experience (5).
You should also let them know how often they should be visiting the dentist - typically every six months - and describe the items that are at the office, such as comfy chairs, brightly colored walls, fun toys, etc.
Ensure that your explanations are clear and simple so little brains can retain all the information correctly, allowing a smoother check-up procedure. Use terms like cleaning, brushing, fluoride treatments, as well as words like careful and gentle when referring to dental equipment so that they feel safe throughout the process (5).
By talking openly with your kids prior to their first visit or any other appointment afterward, you can take steps towards making sure they have a stress-free time while at their next appointment with the Dentist!
Read Books About Going to the Dentist.
Books are a powerful teacher and have been shown to assist children in preparing for various life events, such as dental appointments.
Seeing beloved characters receive dental care can have a positive impact on children's perception of the dentist (3).
Here are some recommended books to get you started (3):
- The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Brush Brush Brush by Alicia Padron
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer)
- Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig)
- Elmo Visits the Dentist by P.J. Shaw
Let Them Make Small Decisions.
Give your child the freedom to pick their own toothbrush and toothpaste, even if the one they want costs a little more (4).
The extra few bucks can help you avoid costly treatments in the future, and taking precautions now will help ensure your children stay healthy and off the dentist's chair.
No Surprise Appointments.
Get your child ready for their upcoming dentist appointment by giving them a heads-up about two weeks before their visit (5).
That way, they can mentally brace themselves, ask any pressing questions, and share any feelings they may have about heading to the dentist's office.
If You're Calm, They're More Likely to Be Calm, Too.
As a parent, you can help your child feel more at ease by being calm and positive yourself. Although it’s understandable if you have had bad experiences in the past and remember them, try not to share any details as your goal is to help your child create a positive relationship with their dentist (6).
If they sense your own uneasiness, it may only make their own nerves worse.
Remain focused on having a good experience, even if the appointment doesn’t go as planned. Focus on calming yourself and providing gentle support throughout the visit. Remain reassuring and encourage your child that everything is going to be okay. Whenever possible, talk in an encouraging tone of voice so they know they aren’t alone in this experience.
Helping keep yourself composed can create an atmosphere of safety, trust, and love during dental visits so that your child knows that everything is going to be alright in the end.
Contact Your Local Family Dentists at Greentree Dental Group.
If you’re looking for a family dentist to make your child’s visits easier and more comfortable, look no further than Greentree Dental Group.
Greentree Dental Group is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care for the whole family. Our passionate team of dentists is committed to helping children feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed during their dental visits.
Contact us today to learn more or schedule an appointment.