We know that sometimes, despite our best efforts as parents, kids still become shy or fearful of specific experiences—especially those in which they are unsure what to expect. Doctor and dental office visits may result in physical discomfort from time to time, which can easily lead to anxiety and even extreme fear of the dentist.
While we recommend starting your child’s routine dental care visits when they turn three years old, we welcome parents to bring their little ones to their own dental appointments as early as possible. “Starting them young” is one of the best ways to teach your child how not to be scared of the dentist.
Luckily, you can take many preventative actions as a parent to counteract dental phobia in children. We have eight great suggestions for you to help your child overcome their dental fears, plus four more ways in this post. If you need even more ideas, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Hempfield Family Dental Care—The Friendly Family Dentist You’ll Appreciate right here in Lancaster, PA.
Tip #1: Take Your Child to a Dentist That Understands Pediatrics
Even if your child seems to be entirely comfortable with visiting the dentist, bringing them to a dental practice that fully understands pediatric care is the best approach.
Children’s dentistry practitioners understand that making the dental treatment experience stress-free—and fun—is critical to helping young patients build the confidence they need to banish dental anxiety.
Here at Hempfield Family Dental Care, Dr. Kolsun and staff tailor their approach to dental care for each individual age group and comfort level. We have often seen dental anxiety in children, so we designed everything from our waiting room to the dental chair to help them feel comfortable visiting our dentist’s office.
For kids who are new to the dental office experience, we create a “show and tell” atmosphere, so they know what to expect from all the tools and dental equipment we use. Our friends—the Magic Squirt Gun and Mr. Thirsty (suction)—join us on the adventure, and we allow kids to try their hand at making them work, too!
The goal is to encourage a smile or a giggle and make kids forget that they were ever nervous or afraid.
Tip #2: Be a Strong Role Model
Our second tip on how to help your children not to be scared of the dentist starts with you. Fear of the dentist may affect up to 36% of the adult population, according to survey data cited in a recent peer-reviewed exploration of why people are afraid of receiving dental care. Unfortunately, it is likely that many of these individuals’ dental anxiety extends back to childhood or a previous bad experience.
Are you afraid of the dentist yourself? Now is the time to overcome your fear for the sake of your kids. By demonstrating that you “practice what you preach” regarding the importance of routine dental care, it is crucial for you to keep up with dental visits, ideally every six months.
If you feel dental anxiety, just let us know! Our team is happy to work with you to put your fear of the dentist behind you. Furthermore, Dr. Kolsun uses only the most innovative dental tools and equipment to prioritize patient comfort. Especially if it has been a few years since you visited a dental office, you may be surprised at the technology we have available today to ensure a painless experience.
Tip #3: Use Positive Reinforcement (But Do Not Resort to Bribery!)
Our third tip to ease dental phobia in children is to take your child out to do something they enjoy following their successful dental visit. Note, this “treat” does not need to incorporate sugary foods or snacks! For instance, you can provide them with extra screen time or a stop at a local park on your drive home from our office.
What you want to avoid, though, is telling your child ahead of time that if they go to the dentist, you will give them a prize or reward. Creating that expectation often does little to ease anxiety, and it may actually solidify negative behavior. Using bribes makes children focus on external motivators (prizes or treats) rather than internal motivators (pride or taking care of one’s health), which can lead to a sense of entitlement and dependence every time they do something “good.”
More Tips to Reduce Fear of the Dentist Before Your Child’s Next Visit
In addition to taking your child to a compassionate pediatric dentist, keeping up with your own dental care, and employing positive reinforcement to encourage your child’s best behavior at the dentist’s office, there are some tried and true tactics you can try before their next appointment.
Each of these will help your child feel more comfortable with the idea of visiting the dentist in the future and ensure that dental procedures don’t evoke fear in your child.
Tip #4: RolePlay “Dentist Office” at Home and Read Books About Visiting the Dentist
Kids love to play pretend, and just as you might play “house” or “school,” role-playing “dentist office” can be a lighthearted way to build excitement—instead of fear—over visiting a real-life dental office.
If you are not sure how to go about this dentist office make-believe play, simply read some age-appropriate books to your child about visiting the dentist. This list features seven great examples of books that will help kids get ready for the dentist, though there are many more.
Tip #5: Talk About Why We Need Healthy Teeth
While you are reading books about the dentist to your children, they will likely have questions—kids always do! Use this opportunity to talk with them about why dental health is important, especially to a person’s overall health.
Tip #6: Talk About What Kids Can Expect During a Dental Office Visit
Walk your kids through what generally happens during a visit to the dentist. Talk about how they will sit in a big, comfy chair, wear a special necklace with a large paper pendant, and meet a lot of new friends. These new friends will look at their teeth and show them some exciting new tools they have probably never seen before!
Call back to the books about the dentist that you have read together, and ask them if they have questions or concerns they want to address with you.
Tip #7: Arrange a Pre-Appointment, If Necessary
If your child is still nervous or fearful about visiting us even after you have tried our other tips to alleviate dental anxiety, we would be happy to meet them in a pre-appointment setting. This visit may involve a meet-and-greet with our staff or an office tour.
Call us at 717.285.3440 to discuss your concerns, and we will see how we can help you show your child how not to be scared of the dentist.
Tip #8: Call in the Troops
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that can be beneficial to you when you are teaching your children how not to be scared of the dentist. Your child likely has grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or older siblings who they adore. Calling in a beloved friend or family member to talk to your child about how important oral health is and what to expect at the dentist can help ease their dental phobia.
Hempfield Family Dental Care is Here to Make Your Dentist Office Visit Fun
No matter your age, if you are nervous about visiting the dentist, we understand that it can make you avoid visiting us. But dental procedures don’t have to be a painful experience. Here at Hempfield Family Dental, we like to have fun and chase away any fear of the dentist you may have while utilizing state-of-the-art technology to maximize your comfort!
Please use these tips to teach your child how not to be scared of the dentist, and then get in touch with us today and make an appointment. You’ll discover how we are a different kind of family dental practice and can help ease dental phobia in both children and adults.