For some adults, a trip to the dentist can be an anxiety-inducing experience that leaves them wishing they were anywhere else. As such, it’s no surprise that many children harbor terrible fears of the dentist, and getting them into the office can be one of the greatest challenges in parenthood!
No doubt, common misconceptions about pain and discomfort in a dental appointment can contribute to this. However, with proactive fear management and a bit of incentive, even the unruliest kids can learn to love their regular dental checkup!
Clarify Their Expectations
Most irrational fears, like those of the dentist, come from an overexaggerated, negative pre-conception of what the experience will be like. Try explaining the entire checkup procedure to your child, in a way that alleviates their fears. Better yet, role play the experience using stuffed animals! Incorporating a fun element into the explanation can be extremely effective in putting their mind at ease.
Use Story Telling
There is a huge collection of children’s storybooks out there that involve visiting the dentist. These books can often paint the experience in a much more positive and entertaining light for your child. Begin reading them to the child frequently, a few days or weeks before the visit is planned. Better yet, leave them around the house so they can browse the pictures on their own.
Give Social Stories a Try
Social stories are designed for children with autism, but prove to be an excellent resource for any child that is anxious. They are similar to regular storytelling, but emphasize the use of social cues and points of view, making them more easily relatable. Luckily, there are plenty social stories available online that are geared specifically to visiting the dentist.
Employ Online Media Resources
Like storybooks, interactive media resources can help change a child’s perspective of the dentist from frightful to the fun. There are many games, videos, and songs available online that are geared towards children, and deal with first-time visits to the dentist. A popular one is the Sesame Street website “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me.”
Reassure your child that you will be with them every step of the way during the visit and that you will not let any harm or pain come to them. Thankfully, most dentists are not oblivious to children’s fears. Often, they will allow parents to sit in for the entire checkup, and will even do their best to play their part in alleviating your child’s worries.
If you yourself have a fear of the dentist, this is something you will, unfortunately, have to cope with for your child’s sake. You can’t very well expect them to be calm, cool, and collected if they see you panicking in the dentist’s chair!