When children are very young, they are often scared of going to the dentist, even though it is one of life’s necessities. Unfortunately, until a child reaches a certain age (it varies by the child), they do not have the ability to comprehend the importance of going to the dentist, much the same way they cannot begin to understand why they must endure shots when they visit their primary care physician. Because of this, it can be a difficult task to take a young child to a dental appointment. Each child handles their fear differently. Some may scream or fight in an attempt to get away from the dentist, others might simply cry. Still, others might even come up with an elaborate story detailing why they should not go to the dentist. Some children might hide in an attempt to avoid leaving the house. The list goes on and on. Children are incredibly intelligent and resourceful and as such can create a situation that often makes a trip to the local dentist overly difficult, sometimes even impossible. This, unfortunately, does not remove the necessity of them going to the dentist which puts parents in an incredibly difficult position. Thankfully, there are ways that a parent can make the experience better and easier. Of course, there are no guarantees and using these tips does not mean that there will never be another difficult or frustrating moment when it comes to a trip to the dentist. Instead, following the tips that are detailed here will give parents a few ways to ease the difficulty. In some cases, it may even eliminate the problem entirely.
Even when a child is very young, it is vital to sit them down and explain to them the best you can why it is important to go to the dentist. This may seem like a ridiculous place to start because many parents have already tried this or they feel the child is too young to understand. Although, it is an excellent place to start. When a dental appointment is fast approaching, sit down to play or read a book together. Casually bring up the dentist’s name and talk about he/she helps so many people every day. Mention how much you admire and respect this person and dentists in general. It is incredibly important to let the child know that you view the dentist as a good thing. Just remember not to stay on the subject too long, especially not at first. Another time bring up a story of a dentist helping someone you know to feel better. Continue to present a positive image of dentists each day until the appointment. While you are in this stage there are a few things that should always be kept in mind. First, do not mention that they have an appointment coming up, at least not until it is only a couple days away. Also, do not specifically mention them going to the dentist, past, present, or future until you have already established a level of trust on the matter. At this point, all you are doing is being to show the child that dentists are good and not to be feared.
The next step does not involve the child at all. Instead, it involves the dentist. It is important to take the child to a dentist that they can be comfortable with. As an adult, you understand that there are some doctors, hair stylists, etc. that you are simply not comfortable with. No apparent reason, you just do not like being around them. A child experiences this as well, but unlike an adult, they cannot always articulate the feeling. Therefore, they may act out or attempt to avoid the situation entirely. This often comes out in an undesirable way. For this reason, it is vital that you find the best dentist for you and your child. There are, of course, times when there are few to no choices. In this situation, you may need to consider going outside of your city to find a suitable dentist. This is not to say that you need to try every dentist in the book attempting to find one your child is comfortable with. It is saying that perhaps if the child seems to have a particularly bad reaction to the dentist, it can’t hurt to try another one. Getting a list of available dentists is incredibly easy, all you have to do is search the internet using a few select keywords. Use the word dentist, perhaps even “pediatric dentist” as well as a location descriptor to indicate where you want the office to be located.
Next, make going to the dentist a rewarding opportunity. Give them a special snack, read an extra book, purchase a small toy, whatever will work best with your particular child. This will help the child to associate going to the dentist with something good. The rewards do not need to be extravagant, just something that they will consider a treat. This builds trust for you and the dentist. It is important to keep in mind that any type of procedure will scare the child worse than a regular visit and as such, a treat by itself will not work. Even though they may not fully understand, it is incredibly important to take the time to explain what the procedure is and why they need it. If there is a chance for pain, be honest, do not try to hide it. If they go into the procedure and experience pain, even though you guaranteed them they would not, it will negatively affect the trust the child has for you and any progress made with the dentist. Also, informing them ahead of time gives them a chance to process the information. Then, once they know what to expect and then successfully complete the procedure, give them a treat. Also, if it helps a child to take a stuffed animal, blanket, or small toy into the dentist’s office with them, allow it. Having that special item will bring the child comfort where other things cannot.