Kids don't come with a built-in fear of the dentist. But they are impressionable. A place like the dentist's office -- with its big chairs, bright lights, strange noises and funny looking tools -- can be scary for little ones. The trick is finding a way to make these strange and new experiences fun, not scary. The better your child's experiences are with the dentist early on, the less likely he or she will be to develop a fear of the dentist.
Skipping dental checkups shouldn't be an option. Regular dental visits help protect against cavities, dental abscesses and other more serious and painful dental problems. It's important for kids to visit the dentist regularly -- once every six months -- even when there's nothing wrong. Routine visits are far less traumatic than infrequent visits that involve discomfort or pain.
If you're not sure how to help make your child's initial experiences with the dentist positive, don't panic! Try these five helpful hints to ensure your little one's relationship with the dentist gets off to a good start:
5 Ways You Can Help Your Kids Love the Dentist
1. Start Early
The earlier your child sees the dentist, the better. Your child's first dental visit should be around the age of 1. This visit won't be too long; think of it as a chance for your child to get to know the dentist and the dentist's office. It's also a great chance for you to ask the dentist any questions you might have about dental care for your little one's baby teeth, including tips for brushing and flossing and ways you can prevent cavities.
2. Read & Role-Play
Many favorite children's characters are featured in books about going to the dentist. Reading with your child gives you a chance to talk about why visiting the dentist is important. It also helps your child become familiar with the dentist and what to expect during a dental checkup.
Role-playing a visit to the dentist can be fun for kids. You can begin by asking your child to "open wide," then count his or her teeth. Then let your child pretend to be the dentist while you play patient.
3. Let Your Child Tag Along During Your Visit
Taking your child along during your routine dental checkup will give your little one a chance to become familiar with the dentist office environment. (Check with your dentist to make sure it's okay first.) The goal is for your child to see that there's nothing scary about going to the dentist.
4. Consider a Specialist
A pediatric dentist undergoes additional training in the dental needs of young patients. Pediatric dental offices tend to be very kid-friendly, often with waiting rooms full of toys, books and other things that will interest kids. A dentist who treats children should know how to cope with any initial fears and put your child at ease. A "kid dentist" may be especially helpful if your child is shy, anxious or has special needs.
5. Keep Your Fears to Yourself
If you've got dental anxiety, your child will pick up on that and be fearful, too. Avoid negative words when you're talking about the dentist and never suggest that anything will be painful. And don't share any negative experiences you might have had with the dentist with your child. The goal is for your child to look forward to seeing the dentist every six months, not dread it.
Finding a great dentist can mean the difference between your child loving the dentist or being afraid. If you need help finding a dentist your child will love, we can help!