**This post has been sponsored by MyKIDSdds to bring you this experience.**
As a mom and hygienist, I want my children to love going to the dentist. I want them to develop great relationships with their providers and enjoy their dental visits. I want them to leave with positive memories, realizing the dentist isn’t as scary as it first seemed and maybe even grow up loving dentistry as much as I do. These are things I think most parents want for their children – replacing fear with understanding. As a hygienist I see firsthand, on a daily basis, how hard overcoming dental fears can be on both children and their parents. With this in mind, I decided to put together a list of the three fears I most commonly see alongside a few tips that may help you and your little one navigate through the beginning stages of your child’s dental journey in a positive, healthy way.
Here are the top 3 dental fears of children and how to relieve them:
- Fear of a New Environment
It is common for children to have initial anxiety at an office to which they have never been. The sights and sounds should be reflective of putting them at ease. Looking for an office with fun colors, playrooms and toys that help them feel as if they are going on a fun playdate adds to their comfort. Having them bring one of their own toys or “lovey” can help your child feel secure or connected with something familiar. Most offices will have an online gallery where you can view images to see if it’s a place you feel like your child will have fun and also be comfortable. At myKIDSdds, we offer an online photo gallery, which you can find here, as well as office tours for those patients and parents who would like to meet our team and check out the office before scheduling their first dental appointment.
Another thought to keep in mind is that the mouth is a very personal space and it can take a degree of trust to allow someone to cross that barrier. Children need time and consistent, positive experiences to build that trust in the dental office. This is achieved at different ages as their sensitivities and life experiences have been their own. Patience and customizing the visit for each child is critical for success, therefore choosing a team who respects their individual boundaries is important. Look for providers that, not only, ask you questions about their overall health, eating habits, breathing patterns, their likes, dislikes, etc. but who will utilize this information during each visit. Picking a team that will address your little one directly using kind tonality and verbiage is another little thing that can go a long way in making your child feel comfortable.
- Fear of Discomfort or Pain
For most children, one of the main fears is pain or discomfort. “Is it going to hurt?” and “Am I going to get a shot?” are probably the main questions we hear from children who are able to voice their concerns. Considering that many associate “check-up” visits with getting vaccinations, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Assuring your child with what will happen versus with what won’t happen (i.e. “You will get to play with toys before you get sparkles on your teeth.” vs. “You won’t get a shot.”) helps to lay groundwork for a positive experience.
Also, most children are extremely perceptive and can subconsciously pick up on their parent’s dental anxiety. This is why it’s important to maintain a positive attitude and use positive verbiage when talking about the dentist around or to your little one. Picking a team of professionals you can trust to listen and address your child’s fears can help ease your anxiety and in turn ease theirs. The more comfortable you feel, the more comfortable they’ll feel.
- Fear of the Unknown (What are they going to do?)
Fear is often driven by a lack of knowledge or understanding. Helping your little one understand why they’re going to the dentist and what they’ll be doing while they’re there can have a huge impact on the outcome of their visit. My recommendation: start with helpful discussions. Try to focus on painting a positive picture in your child’s mind about the things they can expect. You can talk about how the hygienist is going to brush their teeth and make them sparkly then count each one to see how many they have.
Another great way to prepare them is to read books or watching short videos about Daniel Tiger or Mr. Rogers going to the dentist. These two are mom-approved and positive. There are a few we don’t recommend as they can actually work in a negative influence (i.e. Finding Nemo and Berenstein Bears).
You can also play dentist by having your child put his head in your lap as you brush their teeth with a headlamp on your head and then reverse the roles so they have a turn playing dentist (They will lie down for all dental exams so practicing at home will help normalize any potential feelings of vulnerability). You can tell them about the special “x-ray” pictures they may take and how the dentist will help make sure all their teeth are strong and healthy.
If there is a procedure they need that goes beyond their routine check-up, it is better to keep things simple and allow the dentist to elaborate. Pediatric dentists and their teams have training and years of experience working and communicating with children of all ages, so you can rest assured they’ll be able to explain your child’s upcoming treatment at the appropriate time and in a way they’ll understand.
We all want our children to have a positive start on their dental health journey and like any journey preparation is key. It’s my hope that a few of these will make the difference in your child’s feelings of excitement versus dread when you mention “It’s time to go to the dentist “!
For more tips on preparing for a positive dental experience check out our blog post here! If you’d like to schedule an office tour, patient appointment or if you have any questions regarding pediatric dentistry, please don’t hesitate to send or office a message or give us a call at (469) 535-6810.