Tips to Help Your Child Feel Comfortable at the Dentist

Help your child overcome fear of the dentist and set them up for a healthy smile for life.

Dentophobia is a very real issue that affects patients of all ages. A quarter of American adults say they experience such strong fear or anxiety over visiting the dentist that it leads them to avoid appointments altogether. Our oral health is strongly correlated to our overall health, so avoiding the dentist isn’t only bad for your mouth, but for your entire body. It is important that parents work with their children to help make dental visits a pleasant experience so they will continue positive oral health habits for life.

“It is natural for children to experience apprehension over something that is unknown to them, so the best way to combat dentophobia in your children is to begin their relationship with a dentist at an early age” says Lowell Dentist, Dr. Vihangi Thakore.

Children should see a dentist for the first time around their first birthday, or when their first tooth erupts, whichever comes first. By beginning a relationship with a dentist early and maintaining regular checkups, it removes any mystery around it and helps your child associate the visits as necessary to their health and well-being.

Avoid talking about any personal apprehensions you may have about visiting the dentist yourself. Children pick up on our feelings and attitudes, and if they believe you are afraid of the dentist, this will only increase their fear, as well. Instead, be sure you speak of visiting the dentist as a positive and important way to ensure we stay healthy. Avoid using phrases like “don’t be scared” or even “stay calm.” You may be passing on a bit of anxiety into your children without realizing it. When we use terminology like that, it makes children wonder if there is, in fact, something they should be afraid of.

We find it is best to keep it simple when talking to children – there is no need to discuss drilling, or even pain, when preparing for a dental visit. Instead, talk to your children about the importance of having a clean smile.

It can also help children to visualize what may happen at their visit, so look for books about visiting the dentist to read with your children. If they see their favorite characters sitting in a dentist’s office, it can help them see and know what to expect.

If you have a child who already experiences anxiety, or who displays a higher level of anxiety towards the dentist, speak to your dental office about scheduling a special “get to know you” visit. At this visit, there won’t be an actual exam, but it will give your child an opportunity to see the office and look at the equipment the dentist and assistants use. They can walk through what usually happens during an exam and the child can ask questions. Then, when your child has an actual exam, it won’t be unknown to them.

Our oral health is inextricably linked to our overall health and avoiding the dentist may only set us up for future issues that could have been avoided. It is not only important to teach your children to brush and floss regularly, but to also visit the dentist regularly, too. These visits are important to ensure that any potential problems are caught before they become serious, and to help your child understand the importance of a healthy smile. The dentist is nothing to be afraid of, and we work hard each day to help every patient we treat, no matter the age, feel at home, safe and comfortable.