Taking kids to the dentist is necessary to maintain good oral health. However, dentist trips are also one of the most stressful experiences for both parents and kids. Often than not, kids are scared and feel anxious about seating in a cold chair with pointed and metallic instruments poking around their mouths.
They also perceive dental examinations and procedures as painful, even before they even have their first visit. This is due to things they hear from people around them, and what they see being portrayed in media.
Parents play a crucial role in easing children and making their first and succeeding dentist visits less scary. Once you’ve established a positive impression, it will be easier and less stressful to bring them to the dentist for their regular check-up.
Follow these tips and you’re less likely to have a crying child in the clinic:
- Introduce oral hygiene early. Don’t wait for your child to grow all his teeth before introducing brushing. You can use a baby toothbrush or a finger cot after each feeding. Make sure to plan their first dental visit before their first birthday too. Introducing good oral hygiene early will prepare kids for examinations and procedures as they grow up. The more familiar they are, the less scared they will be.
- Find a pediatric dentist. They are especially trained to treat young patients and know how to explain better to kids using less frightening language. Their clinics are also usually more colourful and inviting, which will help kids relax and associate dentist visit as a fun activity.
- Avoid using scary terms to describe dental procedures or talking about your own negative experience. A study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry found that if a family member is anxious about dentist visits, it is often passed on to other members especially their kids. If they hear your negative experiences, they are naturally prone to developing fears too. So avoid using scary words such as ‘shot’, ‘painful’, ‘needles’, and instead tell them about how important it is to keep their teeth ‘happy’ and ‘strong’, and the teeth doctor will help do that.
- Do a practice visit. Before their first actual visit, drop in the clinic to say hi to their dentist and familiarise them with the clinic’s surrounding. Again, it is important that you find a dentist that is especially trained to treat kids. Take time to research or ask for recommendations from fellow parents.
- Make the visit more fun by bringing their favorite toys or planning a fun activity after the examination. This can make them look forward to the next visit. While it is okay to give a small reward for behaving in the clinic, avoid bribing them as our aim is for our kids to associate the experience with positivity instead of a scary activity that they just need to get over with.
Lastly, make oral hygiene a regular conversation at home so they appreciate the importance of having strong and healthy teeth and gums. Use play and toys to reinforce its importance such as role playing dentist and patient scenarios at home (it’s fun to get them to be the dentist!), or giving them toys that promote better oral hygiene such as our Super Tooth Board Game.