While adults may dread the slow’n’steady approach of an impending dental visit, that same sort of trepidation doesn’t have to be to be part of a child’s experience when their own appointment draws near. Most of the fear we’ve amassed about a trip to the dentist is, unfortunately, learned behavior. Just as it is with food and music preferences, our fears are often conveyed upon us by our friends and family – a little bit of “learning,” that can be tamed by projecting less and leaving the real instruction to the person who is best at it: your dentist.
Dentists are trained at calming their patients, and pediatric dentists even more so. In fact, pediatric dentists have, on average, two to three years of additional training beyond their four-year dental program, so they can address the specific needs of pediatric patients.
Here’s how to ensure you don’t rock the boat!
- Stop the Fear Mongering: We all know kids are experts at mirroring. The moment that inappropriate word exits your mouth, it’s been filed away for future use by your precocious two year old … they hear and see everything! So, just as it is with foul language, you’ve got to shelter your fears of the dentist from your kids, and save the stories of angst for the ears of adults only. Can’t hold back? Then, be prepared to wrestle with your kids every four to six months when their scheduled visit arrives. Kids aren’t afraid of the eye doctor’s glaucoma, dye, and numbing experiments, nor should they be afraid of those performed on their teeth.
- Address Questions, but Limit Details: Once your children have reached a certain age, they’re going to want to know what to expect out of their dental visit. Help them with this natural curiosity by addressing what’s less intimidating: things like what the office might look and smell like, that they’ll be in a special chair, and that there will be a lot of light to see inside their mouths. The more complicated (and specific questions) should be left to your doctor to explain as they have very unique and often playful ways to address these questions.
- Ask the Dental Office Staff for Advice Prior to Visiting: Sometimes, a little prep work goes a long way, and who better to ask for advice than the friendly men and women who welcome you to the office? Little things like making your appointment early in the morning, talking about your own positive experiences, bringing a toy, or even allowing your child to go in for their cleaning without you being there, can empower your child in ways you might not foresee. So, ask away, the office staff is there to help!
Bringing your children to the dentist (even teens) can be a simple process if you take heed to follow these few simple steps. Start early, talk about good oral health, and follow your own advice and you’ll have a family without a fear in the world when it comes to the dentist.
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