Children Don’t Have to Be Afraid of the Dentist
As a dentist and father of young children, I have had to admit that, from a child’s point of view, a dental visit can be a scary event. The dental office is full of unfamiliar things – people in masks, noises, and metal instruments. It’s not surprising that some children are afraid of the experience, but they don’t need to be. Here’s why:
Is your child scared of going to the dentist? If so, there are ways for both parents and dental practitioners to help make the visit more relaxing. Here are some tips for parents:
1. Start early. I recommend that the child’s first visit happen at age 1 or when the first tooth is visible. Getting started at such an early age helps the child become familiar comfortable with the people and comfortable with the procedures.
2. Be positive. Don’t use words that are scary – shot and hurt, for example. Let the child be proud of her teeth and want to show the dentist or hygienist how healthy they are.
3. Use stories. Picture books can help children get a sense of what to expect.
4. Enlist siblings. Make dental visits a family affair. Let the young child join older brothers and sisters in the routine.
5. Select the right dentist. Most pediatric dentists have kid-friendly offices with video games, toys, and movies or TV shows.
6. Avoid bribery. Instead of promising a treat for good behavior, teach your child why the dental visit is necessary. Encourage children to be proud of their healthy teeth and aware of the role their dentist plays in keeping them that way. The worst message would be to promise a sweet or sugary treat.
Dental practices that offer pediatric services know how to work with children. Most of these practices have well-developed procedures for introducing children to dental care. In my practice, we recommend starting with our Sights and Sounds program which is designed to slowly introduce your young child to our dental office and staff.
If your child expresses fear about dental visits, consult your dentist or dental hygienist. They will work with you to identify the source of the anxiety and to help the child overcome that fear.
Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!
Dr. Nishan Halim
Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric dentistry with restorative and cosmetic procedures, as well as preventive dentistry, in his Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. Contact the office to schedule an appointment for your child. We can help her get started on her own oral care routine.