The overwhelming fear of visiting a dentist causes untold numbers of adults to avoid professional dental care altogether. How can you keep your children from experiencing a phobia of the dentist?
Some dentists suggest bringing children to the dentist as soon as they start growing teeth. While this may be considered early, most dentists agree that toddlers should be taken for dental exams.
This early dental care helps in two ways. The first is that the dentist can identify and warn you of any potential problems, and the second is that children will be more comfortable when going to the dentist is something they have done as long as they can remember.
Keep Your Negativity to Yourself
Think twice before you talk about your own dental office experiences with your child. Don't tell her about anything painful or negative you went through, even if you tell her that dentist visits are different than they used to be when you were a child. Keep all communication about the dentist positive and supportive. You can share your horror stories when she is older.
Choose a Dentist Who Works With Children
Consider a pediatric dentist for your kids. Your dentist might be perfect for you, but does he have experience working with children? Some adult or family dentists are also great choices for kids, but others don't have the skills. Look for a dentist who knows how to talk to children in a way that instills confidence and promotes a positive attitude. Pediatric dentists' offices typically have brightly colored pictures and may have children's movies playing.
WebMD suggests that parents choose a dentist who can clearly explain what is going to happen in kid friendly language. Look for a family dentistry and a dental office staff that treats children with respect while speaking honestly to them about dental procedures. Staff should not hold kids down or force them into positions that frighten them.
A pediatric dentist should be confident but not authoritative or intimidating. Some dental phobias begin with a dentist who is perceived by the patient as uncaring or even frightening. If you are uncomfortable with anything about your child's dentist, you should look for a different one.
Don't Use the Dentist as a Threat
It might seem like a great idea to tell your child to stop eating candy because she will get cavities, but that sends a negative message about the dentist that can backfire later. When she does need to visit the dentist, and maybe even needs to have a cavity filled, she may be overcome with fear because you have presented it as such a negative event.
Get Her Invested in Caring for Her Teeth
A much better approach than threats is to make your child feel like the leader of her own oral health care team. Let her know how great it feels to have clean, healthy teeth and praise her for learning proper ways to brush. Read books to her about brushing her teeth and eating crunchy foods that are healthy for them. Tell her how great her smile looks when she takes care of it.
Present the dentist and dental office staff as people whose job it is to help her take care of her teeth rather than authority figures who may judge her for her mistakes.
Visiting the dentist doesn't have to be a scary experience, and you can raise children who don't have to deal with that fear as adults. Keep conversation about the dentist honest, upbeat and positive. Your kids will learn the value of having healthy teeth and will recognize that dentist appointments are not scary.