Fear is an extremely powerful emotion, especially when you’re a child. There’s the monster under the bed, the monster in the closet, and yes, a child may even be afraid of the dentist. Here are eight ways you can calm their fears and get them ready for their first trip to the dentist.
- Read about it first. I love children’s books, and there are a number of them on the subject. I particularly like the Berenstain Bears book, and there are even dental office apps that can help calm some fears. If you’d like to borrow a book, please visit us. We have them here at the office!
- Have realistic expectation for the first visit. We like to take it slow with our new patients, especially children. The first visit might just to be a time to get familiar with everything. They may want to just meet the dentist, and take in their surroundings. Every child is different; just go with the flow.
- Don’t bring them in at nap time. Shoot for an optimal time of the day (not lunch time!) We find kids tend to do better in the morning.
- Feed them before their visit. Depending on the treatment they receive, they may not be able to eat for thirty minutes after the appointment, so make sure their tummies are full!
- Be careful not to over-prepare. While it’s healthy to read a book and educate children on what happens at a dentist’s office, you don’t want to go into too much detail. Keep it positive and upbeat, and avoid statements such as “Don’t worry, you won’t get a shot. That type of statement will build anxiety, not relieve it (and we don’t even use shots!) Instead, focus on the positive, and only address issues if they ask about them. Too much information can generate confusion.
- Bring in their lovey. Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal, doll or blanket? Who doesn’t? We encourage them to bring in their “lovey” to keep them reassured.
- Model good behavior. One tactic that’s proven effective at our office is to bring your child to the appointment of an older sibling, or even yourself. Model good behavior in the dentist’s chair, and let an older family member show them how it’s done!
- Trust us to help your child. As a family dentist, we’ve had a lot of experience working with patients young and old. We know how to reassure our patients and relieve any anxiety. Count on us to explain the dentist’s office in just the right way.
Childhood fears need to be taken seriously. The right dose of information, reassurance, and good behavior modeling will make this a positive opportunity. Be sure to contact us ahead of time if you’d like more advice on how to make your child’s first visit to the dentist a positive one!