Taking children to the dentist

By Drum Digital
12 May 2014

Few adults enjoy going to the dentist – but what do you do if your children are afraid of going? Here are a few tips.

Hide your own fear If you’re afraid to go to the dentist your children might sense this and imitate your behaviour.

Go to the dentist regularly – every six months. Regular visits are the best way to pick up dental problems before more serious treatment is necessary. Children who see the dentist only when there’s something wrong associate the dentist with bad news about their teeth.

Be optimistic when discussing an upcoming dentist visit but don’t give your children false hope. If you say, “Nothing will happen; the dentist is just going to look into your mouth,” and your children need treatment they might lose trust in you and the dentist.

Pick the right time Everything is more difficult if the child who has to see the dentist is tired. Make a morning appointment.

Talk about the dentist visit, but not in too much detail. Give simple answers where necessary. The dentist is better equipped to answer more complicated questions in language your child can understand.

Stress the value of the visit rather than everything that could go wrong. Use positive words such as “clean, strong teeth” when discussing a visit to the dentist so it sounds like a good thing rather than frightening. It’s a good idea to teach your children from an early age that visits to the dentist are necessary, not optional.

If you discover your children are seriously afraid of the dentist, talk to them about it. It makes things easier to handle if you know exactly what they’re afraid of.

Have a play-play dentist visit with your child before the real visit. Use a toothbrush and count your child’s teeth aloud. You can even use a mirror to show your child how the dentist will examine their teeth. Then let your child play dentist with a doll or soft toy as the “patient”. This may help them get used to the dental routine.

Make sure you keep calm. It’s normal for a young child to cry and squirm a bit when a stranger wants to examine them. Remember, the dentist and their staff are probably used to dealing with children. Let them tell you how you can help.

Don’t promise a reward. The temptation may be great to promise children a reward such as sweets if they behave well but this doesn’t send the right message. Firstly they may wonder what’s so bad about a dentist and will want to cry. Secondly, it doesn’t help much if the dentist stresses the importance of healthy teeth and you give your children sweets.

If visits to the dentist become a big problem consider a visit to a pediatric dentist. These specialists have had extra training in dealing with children.

-Suzaan Hauman

Sources: webmd.com, aquafresh.com, parents.com

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