One of the most important ways to keep your kid cavity-free is to see the dentist regularly. Routine checkups and cleanings are completely covered by most dental plans, so there’s no reason to skip a visit. However, if you have kids that have dental anxiety, getting them to the dentist may feel impossible.
It’s important to take the time to ease dental anxiety with your kids to keep their mouths and bodies healthy. Keep reading for some tips and tricks to make their next appointment easier.
Tips to ease dental anxiety with your kids
Fear of the dentist is not uncommon in children. Helping them to overcome their fears is an important part of ensuring good oral health for their entire lives. Here are some tips to help them feel more comfortable at the dentist’s.
- Start taking your kids to the dentist early. The American Dental Association recommends children visit the dentist within six months of their first tooth or by age 1. Early visits give kids a chance to become familiar with the dentist and may help reduce anxiety down the road.
- Lead by example. If you’re nervous about the dentist, your kids might pick up on it and adopt the same attitude. According to a study in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, adults can transfer their dental anxiety or fears to family members. Make a conscientious effort to demonstrate a positive attitude toward the dentist while articulating the value of regular visits. By modeling relaxed behavior, you can let your kids know there’s nothing to be afraid of.
- Read books that explain the dental experience. Reshape children’s attitudes with the power of the page. Pick up library books that explain dental appointments in kid-friendly language. Popular options include Curious George Visits the Dentist by A. Rey, Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer, and Open Wide: School Tooth Inside by Laurie Keller. To build even more positive associations with the dentist, try bringing their favorite toy or game to appointments.
- Make your child comfortable with your dentist and their staff. Stop by the dental office beforehand so your kids learn what to expect in a lower-pressure situation. Introducing them to the dentist and staff without the stakes of an actual appointment can help them feel more comfortable in the environment.
- Practice beforehand. Create a mock dental visit in your own home to remove any confusion they have about what happens in the dental chair. Pretend to clean your child’s teeth while explaining how visiting the dentist helps keep their smiles in tip-top shape.
- Use relaxation techniques. If you’ve tried everything and your kids still get the heebie-jeebies in the dental chair, don’t fear! Try calming them down with some simple relaxation exercises. Instruct your child to inhale and exhale slowly and steadily. You can also try a technique where they tense different muscle groups as tight as can be, then release.
A positive, comfortable relationship with your dentist or your child’s dentist is extremely important to ease dental anxiety. Anxiety at any age can be alleviated when you’re comfortable with those who are taking care of your teeth.
*Updated April 2023