As pediatric dentists, we understand that kids are afraid of dental visits. We expect it, we’re trained in handling it, and we’ve seen even the most fearful patients warm up to us after a visit or two. Our team knows how to make going to the dentist a fun experience, but as a parent, you also have an important role to play in alleviating your child’s dental anxieties. Here’s what you can do to help.
Watch What You Say About Dental Visits
“If you eat any more candy, you’ll get cavities and the dentist will need to drill your teeth.”
Have you found yourself saying something like that to your child? Many parents do; it’s not out of malice, it’s said out of love and wanting to spare children the discomfort of having cavities. There’s a subtext, though, that children pick up on quickly—the dentist’s office is an unpleasant place and should be avoided.
Children also pick up on their parents’ anxieties about the dentist. While we’re sure you’re not confiding in your kids about your innermost fears about going to the dentist, if they’re in the room when you tell your spouse, “Ugh, I have to go to the dentist tomorrow and I’m dreading it!” they’ll hear that and it will shape their own perceptions of what it means to visit the dentist.
Finally, do you give your child rewards after they go to the dentist? This can be a good thing, but be mindful of how you present it—you don’t want to give them the impression that dental visits are something to be endured.
Establish a Dental Home
In pediatric dentistry, we often talk about establishing a “dental home” for children. This refers to the relationship between your child, our team at Suffolk Pediatric Dentistry, and you.
By starting dental visits at an early age—the first dental visit is recommended around a baby’s first birthday—and continuing to visit every six months, your child will get to know us and we’ll get to know them. The result is that your child will be more comfortable coming to our office because it’s part of their routine.
Children with an established dental home aren’t just more at ease during dental appointments—they also have better dental health. With better dental health, dental exams and cleanings are easier, so children have no reason to feel anxious about their appointments.
How We Can Help
If your child has anxiety about dental visits, please communicate that to us prior to their appointment. It will make the visit easier for you, your child, and for our team. When fear is extreme, extensive dental work is needed, or a child has special needs, we offer options for sedation ranging from nitrous oxide to hospital dentistry under general anesthesia. While we use these sedation tools conservatively, it’s also important for us to ensure that your child’s experience at our office is a positive one.