Just about everyone experiences fear of the unknown, and children going to the dentist for the first (or even second or third) time aren’t any different! Kids simply don’t have experiences to draw from so they may think it’s like going to the doctor, where they have had shots or where they go when they are sick (and therefore uncomfortable). Here are Dr. Culp’s four tips for helping kids overcome fear of the dentist:
Start them young! It’s our goal at Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry for kids to establish a dental home with kids early on, so children should be brought to the dentist when their first tooth erupts or when they are 12 months old, whichever comes first. The sooner your child comes to the dentist the sooner they will get used to it, and it will just become part of their bi-annual routine!
Be a good role model! It’s important for your child(ren) to see you modeling the right behavior at the dentist, so take them with you to your next cleaning and let them watch the process. Smile during your experience, and speak positively about the dentist before, during and after your visit. Also be sure that your child sees you taking care of your teeth daily, so they can see that you’re practicing what you preach!
Comfort and distract the child(ren). At Jungle Roots, we encourage you to stay with your child through their entire appointment, so you can talk to your child throughout the visit. We also encourage you to come to the office to play and have fun with your child in advance of their first visit, so the office is a happy place in their experience!
Finally, use positive reinforcement for good behavior. Children can’t understand the lifelong benefits of proper hygiene at such a young age, but they can behave for a sticker, prize, or trip to the bowling alley after a successful visit at the dentist! Reinforcing good behavior will be helpful in the long run, so do your best to make the visit to the dentist a fun one!