It’s common for kids to be afraid of dentists, but luckily, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome. Whether you’re ready to take your child to the dentist for their first time, or they were upset by a past visit, move past this obstacle with help from Dr. Scott Edwards. As a dentist who has extensive experience dealing with children’s concerns, Dr. Edwards offers expert guidance to help prevent major dental problems in the future.
You can ensure your child maintains good oral health over the long term by following these five tips:
1. Start Early
Early visits to the dentist will help your child become familiar with the dental experience and learn that dentists are safe, important and even fun. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends taking your child to see a dentist when his or her first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday. At Scott Edwards Family Dentistry, we suggest parents bring their children in for a reassuring introductory visit, which is designed to ease them into regular dental exams.
2. Consider a Family Dentist
If your family’s current dentist mainly serves adults, he or she may not be the best dentist for your child. Family dental practices like our’s understand how to help kids overcome their fear of dentists. We know that starting off on the right foot is crucial to guiding children through years of healthy smiles, so we focus on putting young patients’ minds at ease. As a family dentist, Dr. Edwards calms children’s fears by providing a fun, relaxing dental experience, as well as kids’ programs that make going to the dentist exciting.
3. Don’t Teach Your Child to Fear the Dentist
Unknowingly, parents often contribute to children’s fear of dentists by expressing their own fears. If you experience anxiety about going to the dentist yourself, remember that this is an acquired fear. Many people share this anxiety, but you can break the cycle by not sharing negative ideas about the dentist with your child, and avoiding words like pain and hurt.
Our office treats adults as well as children, so you are welcome to discuss any of your own fears with our doctor and staff. We will be happy to address your concerns and help you overcome past unpleasant experiences.
4. Answer Your Child’s Questions
While it’s important to avoid expressing negativity about the dentist, parents should also talk with their children positively about dental visits before their initial appointment.
Scott Edwards Family Dentistry highly recommends sitting down with your son or daughter and answering any questions about going to the dentist. Addressing concerns beforehand can significantly help kids overcome fear before they even go.
5. Stay with Your Child
When your child sits in the dental chair for the first time, they may experience anxiety no matter how well you’ve prepared them. You can help your child stay calm and positive by staying nearby.
Dr. Edwards welcomes parents to stay with their children during checkups. This is a great way to help kids overcome their fear of dentists, and gradually feel comfortable going through checkups on their own.
Helping Your Child Feel Less Anxious About Their First Visit To The Dentist
Parents play an important role in making their child's first dental office visit a positive experience. Any anxiety in you will be picked up by the child.
To help the dental visit go more smoothly:
- Tell your child about the visits but limit the number of details given. Answer any questions with simple, to-the-point answers. Let Dr. Edwards answer more complex or detailed questions. Dentists are trained to describe things to children in a non-threatening way and in easy-to-understand language.
- Do not tell your child that something will hurt or be painful.
- Do not tell your child about an unpleasant dental experience that you have had.
- Stress to your child how important it is to maintain healthy teeth and gums and that the dentist is a friendly doctor whose job it is to help do this.
- Do not promise a reward for going to the dentist.
Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal for children to be fearful— some are afraid of being separated from their parents. Others are afraid of the unknown, others are afraid of being injured. A dentist like Dr. Edwards knows how to cope with your child’s fears and anxiety and put them at ease.
How a Dentist Can Help Calm an Anxious Child
Children express their fears in a number of ways. Some children may cry, and others may throw temper tantrums. Dentists use many techniques to ease children’s fears, including the following behavior management techniques:
- Voice control: the dentist uses a friendly voice, which could become firmer if necessary.
- Simple instructions: the dentist will use simple words (tell, show, do) to explain a procedure and may demonstrate the procedure on a doll or another person before performing the procedure on the child.
- Positive reinforcement: the dentist will use praise and compliments to reward good behavior.
- Distraction: the dentist will tell stories or engage the child in conversation to draw the child’s attention away from the work being completed.
- Nonverbal communication: the dentist uses body language, such as a simple smile or frown, to reinforce positive behavior and discourage negative behavior.
- Sedation: the dentist may use sedation to help the child relax and be more comfortable, if necessary. The two most common types of sedation that might be used in children are nitrous oxide – laughing gas – or an oral sedative like Valium.
Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy, which is why regular medical and dental checkups are needed. Being nervous about how your child will react at the dental office while they are still young is normal. You can help calm your child’s nerves and ensure they have a fun visit while still understanding the importance of regular visits. If you are in the Memphis area, stop by one of our offices in Midtown or East Memphis, or call us today to set up an appointment. We look forward to meeting your family!