According to the CDC report on Children’s Oral Health, more than half of children aged 6 to 8 are affected by cavities. Cavities are one of the reasons why children dread going to the dentist.
If your child is scared of the dentist, you understand their fears too well. But even if your child is refusing to go all together, there are ways you can help them work through their fears.
So how do you handle a child who is terrified of the dentist?
Read on and learn what to do when your child is scared of the dentist.
Understanding Your Child’s Fear
Start by talking to your child and asking what they’re afraid of. Listen to their answers and do your best to understand the points they are trying to make.
When the time comes for their dental appointment, just stay calm. Try to reassure them that the dentist is there to help, not hurt them.
Explain what each procedure is, what pediatric dentists do, and how it helps your child’s teeth stay healthy, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Be patient, and don’t rush them if it takes them a few tries to get comfortable.
Make Dental Visits a Positive Experience
Ensure your child is familiar with the dentist, office, and staff. Before their first dental visit, read books about the dentist or watch cartoons that show children’s positive visits to the dentist.
Also, bring a friend or family member your child is comfortable with to create positive vibes in the office environment. Bring their favorite toy, treat, or comfort object to help them relax during the visit.
Utilize Distraction Techniques
Utilize distraction techniques to help alleviate their worries. With young children, it can be helpful to bring along books and toys to help occupy them while they are in the waiting room.
You could also use imaginary play to help them feel in control and relaxed. For example, you could pretend that the dental instruments are musical or create a game with the brushers and flossers.
Engaging in conversation about something exciting, such as their favorite book or movie, can also help the time go faster. And keep the focus off the appointment.
Once the dentist visit begins, you can create calming vibes with fun music and conversation about the benefits of healthy teeth. Preparing your child and utilizing distraction techniques can help to reduce their dental anxiety.
Give Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement helps create a safe environment and reduce stress and anxiety. Reassure your child with phrases like “you are a brave, courageous person” or “it will all be over soon.”
Give them rewards for each step they take in the right direction when going to the dentist. Offer incentives, like a sticker or treat, if they go through with their appointment.
Help Your Child Who Is Scared of the Dentist
Visiting the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary experience for your child. Encourage calm conversations surrounding the dentist, and don’t use negative language.
You can help your child establish a strong relationship with the dentist and form healthy oral habits through trust, understanding, and patience. Getting scared of the dentist is just a phase.
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