Five tips to help kids overcome fear of the dentist

Preventing dental fear and anxiety in children begins at home. Here are five ways to help your little one relax

Start dentist visits early in life
A child’s first dentist appointment should be made within six months of the first tooth appearing and no later than their first birthday. Early visits help kids feel at home as this makes going to the dentist ‘part of the program’. Familiarity breeds comfort, so regular dentist visits from early on will enable children to get used to their dentist and practice.

Regular dental visits prevent problems
Regular dental check-ups are pivotal. Not only do these ensure any issues are caught early, but they enable dentists to build a relationship with children that is based on trust. Avoiding dentist visits because kids are anxious can end up exacerbating their fear, not to mention dental issues. Tooth pain and protracted dental procedures compound child dental fear. By contrast, regular dental checks enable kids to grow in confidence with each visit while preventing problems.

Keep the trust
Once kids lose faith in the dentist or their parent, dental phobia can really take hold. Give your child a simple overview of what to expect from their dentist visit. Be upbeat and honest but don’t overdo the detail. Kids may feel stressed over an upcoming filling or treatment if you give them too much to think about. Also remember that there is always an element of unknown before your child’s appointment. If you tell your child that nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen and they require a dental treatment, you could shatter that vital trust they have in your word. By proxy, your child may lose faith in the dentist as well.

Keep it positive
Paediatric dentists are highly adept in explaining their process to kids. Leave as much of this as you can to the dentist as they will step your child through their individual appointment in child-friendly terms. When talking over upcoming dentist visits with your child, it’s what you don’t say that can matter most. Stay away from letting words like ‘hurt’, ‘ouch’, ‘drill’ or ‘needle’ enter your conversation. Find fun, positive, engaging ways to explain what to expect from the dentist visit. For example, that the dentist will show them how the dental chair moves, start by only looking at their teeth, count and brush their teeth, and give them a new toothbrush.

Give kids a clean and calm start
Children’s fear about dentist visits is a factor that shapes the oral health of Australian children for their whole lifetime. Dentists ensure teeth are kept clean, strong and healthy with the calmness, confidence and comfort that all kids deserve.

Dr Eduardo Alcaino is a Sydney-based Paediatric Dentist and Founding Member of the Oral Health Advisory Panel. Visit www.ohap.com.au

 

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