January 7, 2020
It’s estimated that 30 to 40 million Americans are scared of seeing the dentist. Although many people’s phobia began in childhood, there are some easy ways to help your child avoid fear from the very beginning. One of the best places to start is bringing them to a board-certified pediatric dentist in Birmingham, which is somewhat like a “pediatrician of dentistry.” With specialized training to address the unique needs of children, they provide outstanding care in a fun, kid-friendly environment. You can also use the 4 tips below to prepare your child for their first visit. By helping them feel comfortable now, they’ll have a healthy smile from the start and avoid the fears that plague so many adults!
1. Schedule Their First Visit Early
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children get a checkup when the first tooth comes in (or around their first birthday). At this age, checkups are easy and non-invasive but still very valuable.
While they don’t involve a cleaning or X-rays, a pediatric dentist will visually examine your child’s teeth (usually while they’re on your lap), make sure everything is developing the way it should, discuss oral hygiene, fluoride, habits like thumb-sucking, diet, and more. And by simply exposing your child to the dentist at this age, it will be much easier for them to feel comfortable as they get older.
If your child is older than age one, don’t worry too much – just schedule them as soon as possible.
2. Talk About the Dentist Beforehand
It’s really helpful to simply talk about the dentist beforehand. You can also use some of the many children’s books and videos on this topic, which are excellent for explaining why everyone needs to see a dentist and addressing the common fears kids have. These resources also use positive, non-threatening language that your child can easily understand, which leads us to the next point.
3. Use Kid-Friendly Language
When discussing the first visit to a pediatric dentist, keep it simple and be mindful of the language you use. Avoid comments like, “Don’t be scared,” or “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Kids don’t start out with existing ideas that the dentist is scary, so these phrases can make them wonder why they need reassurance in the first place. The last thing you want to do is “plant” the idea of fear in their minds.
And an example of simplifying your language is saying, “You’re going to get tooth vitamins to make your teeth strong,” instead of “The dentist is going to put fluoride on your teeth.”
4. If Possible, Bring Them Along To an Older Sibling’s Appointment First
Kids always want to do what their older siblings do, so they’ll feel more comfortable in the dental chair themselves if they’ve observed one of their visits before (assuming the older child feels comfortable and isn’t fearful or anxious).
This is also a chance to set up a positive association with the environment of a dental office. They can even choose a toy from the “treasure chest,” which many kids will remember the next time they’re there. By getting acquainted with everything beforehand, it will already feel familiar on the day of their visit.
Finally, don’t hesitate to talk to a pediatric dentist before your child’s first visit. They want to set your child up for success and can give you personalized tips to help the visit go as smoothly as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Angelica R. Rohner is a board-certified pediatric dentist in Birmingham and also a mother of four. With a friendly, compassionate chairside manner, she can help even the most fearful or nervous child feel comfortable in the dental chair. If you’d like more information about easing your child’s fears or have any questions, you can contact Dr. Rohner via her website.
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