Before your child visits the dentist for the first time, mainstream culture has already communicated the fear associated with the masked doctor, daunting chair, and buzzing weaponry known as “The Dentist”. Perhaps you may have added to the scare by openly discussing your worst dental experiences and fears too. As a result, a lifetime of dentist anxiety awaits your child and this fear will only continue to grow unless you take action early. Here are 4 ways you as a parent can help your children overcome or avoid fear of the dentist.
1. Start Young
It is essential to begin a dental care regimen when your child is very young – an infant, even. Regardless of whether any teeth have grown in yet, cleaning the gums with a washcloth and one finger will help stimulate and soothe the gums, and train your baby to understand the sensation and routine of dental care.
2. Practice “Play Dentist”
Instill familiarity with check ups and common dental procedures by role-playing with your child. Take turns being the patient and doctor, using a toothbrush, mirror and chair, and allow your child to understand what happens at the dentist in order to be better prepared.
3. Be a Positive Influence
If you haven’t had the best dental experiences, are afraid of visiting the dentist yourself, or skip your routine cleanings, ask yourself if you want your child to imitate your bad dental habits. As a role model and parent, your child will seek your reaction to their first dental experience and imitate or feed off your emotions. Be a good influence and speak positively of the dentist and good dental hygiene.
4. Continue the Conversation
As your child grows and becomes accustomed to routine dental visits, keep the conversation going about good oral hygiene at home. Work together to recognize good and bad dental habits, have open conversations about the effects of the food we eat, and create a brushing schedule.
With these head start tips, you can get your children (and whole family) on the right track to fearless dentist appointments and healthy teeth.