A trip to the dentist can be a scary event for a child. Especially the first visit, or if they had a bad experience their first go around. As parents, we understand the importance of routine exams and promoting good oral hygiene, but our kids often don’t. Dr. Rob Semtner discusses what he has seen of children’s dental anxiety in Raonoke and tips to help your child overcome their fear. Bonus, this helps relieve stress for you too!
Consult with your dentist as to when you should begin your child’s routine dental exams. Starting them young with gradual exposure to the dentist, dental office, sitting in the chair, the instruments, etc. will all slowly become familiar. Often children and adults feel a lack of control when sitting in the dental chair with their mouth open. The more positive experiences we have in the chair the more trust we typically gain. Give your child the security of sitting next to them and allow them to ask the dentist questions and verbalize how they are feeling. Gradual exposure is also extremely helpful for when a procedure is needed. If they are accustomed to routine visits, they know if they feel pain in their procedure this isn’t typical of normal dental visits. They also have established trust with the dental office easing their nerves a bit.
Ask Your Child What They Are Scared Of
“Why are you scared of the dentist?” “What are you afraid will happen?” Sounds simple and easy but this step is often forgotten. It is common for children to be fearful of the dentist so we often assume the reason as to why this fear exists. Asking simple questions will help them express their fear and allow you to address it head on. If the visit is for a routine check-up, tell them it’s only to check for “sugar bugs” and make sure their smile is healthy. If it is for a procedure, don’t lie to them but be vague on details. You don’t want your child to lose trust in you or the dentist if you say “it won’t hurt” when you know (or are unsure) a little pain will be involved.
A fun activity to do with your child is to have a “pretend dental visit” with them. Make it simple, easy and fun. This is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene. Explain to them what a dentist does and how it helps our smiles stay healthy. Start by being the dentist on your child or even on stuffed animals. Be extremely gentle, caring, informative but most of all fun! Let your child then pretend to be the dentist on his/her stuffed animals. This is a creative way to prep them for their visit and gives them something fun to share with their dentist.
Overall, emphasize the positive and not the negative of the dentist. If you are fearful yourself of the dentist be extremely careful not to pass this onto your child. Choose a dentist you trust and are comfortable with and this will show through to your child. Make the experience “fun” for them. While you don’t need to reward your child for going to the dentist a positive association is great. Praise them for how well they behaved, go to the park after or do anything that your child finds pleasant. For trusted Raonoke family dentistry contact Dr. Rob Semtner and the Semtner Dental team today!