How to Get Kids to Love the Dentist
Have you ever seen a child cry and scream and make a scene at the dentist? We’ve all been there. Getting a kid to go to the dentist willingly can be like pulling teeth. All puns aside, dental professionals struggle to figure out the best methods to getting kids to relax and have fun even while they’re in the chair.
At Lifepoint Dental Partners, our teams at all of our locations work hard to make even routine visits fun for kids and relaxing for parents. While our dentists and hygienists are experts in giving each child a kid-friendly environment every time they come in, they can’t do all the work. Half the battle in getting kids to have fun at the dentist happens at home before the visit even happens.
As parents it’s easy to try and ease kids’ fears with bribes, trying explain it will only hurt a little or letting them watch your own dental checkup, but according to Parents Magazine, all of these will just end up freaking the child out more.
Instead of bribing or trying to rationalize the experience with a child, parents should keep the visit lighthearted and easy to understand. At Lifepoint, we make it a point to keep even the littlest kids happy and comfortable during their teeth cleaning even from their first visit.
Sometimes parents are more nervous than the kids; if that’s the case here are a few do’s and don’ts of taking kids to the dentist.
DO get them comfortable with regular dental care. Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as their first couple teeth come in. The earlier you start, the more comfortable they will be with it and it will become part of their normal routine. Flavored toothpaste and a toothbrush with their favorite TV character can make brushing their teeth a fun morning and even activity.
DO introduce them to teeth cleaning and the dentist early. We recommend getting them comfortable at the dentist as soon as they have their first few teeth. At the first appointment, the dentist will just count their teeth and make sure everything is coming in properly. After that you can expect to return every six months for a checkup and cleaning once they have a full set of teeth.
DO make the dentist a fun experience. Our dentists and hygienists are experts at working with the little patients. They do their best to make sure kids see the whole experience as something fun, not something scary.
DO work with your dentist to show your child what to expect during the appointment.
DO keep it positive. Big chairs, bright lights and sharp tools can be a lot for a kid to take in. Use gentle language and make your child and comfortable as possible. If they need sunglasses or a stuffed animal to get them through it, then by all means do it.
DO play pretend before your first visit. Use stuffed animals or your own mouths to play dentist on each other before you go in for the appointment.
DO let the dental professionals guide you through early appointments. They have experience with all different kinds of patients and know how to best handle nervous kids. Sometimes a nervous or hovering parent can make the situation worse rather than better.
DON’T bribe your kids to make it through an appointment. Bribes can sometimes make kids wonder why they need a treat to get them through something. However, a bag of fun toys or games that comes out at the dentist’s office when they wait for the appointment can make the office visits fun and exciting.
DON’T warn them that it might hurt, there is no need to scare them before the appointment. Our dentists do everything in their power to keep it as gentle as possible for little ones.
DON’T show them your apprehension. Hang back and let the dentist or hygienist take the reins at first and only step in if they need you.
DON’T use negative, unpleasant language. Avoid “shot,” “pain” or “hurt” when talking about the dentist with your child.
DON’T make your child feel like it is not okay to be a little scared. If they are apprehensive, acknowledge their fears and try and fix them before a full blown meltdown happens.
DON’T let your childhood experiences with the dentist influence how you talk to your child about their upcoming dental experience. Dentistry has come a long way in the last couple decades and we try our best to make going to the dentist as pain free and relaxing as possible.
Like any other good health habit, good oral hygiene habits start early and continue until adulthood. There is nothing that says children have to be afraid of the dentist, but for some reason many parents have that expectation of their kids. Of course, every child is different and how they react to the dentist, the tools and the environment will differ for each case. Doing things like playing dentist with stuffed animals or having your child help you brush your teeth when they’re in their comfort zone can ease the trip to the office.
Another thing to keep in mind that nervous parents equal nervous kids. A lot of adults have anxiety about going to the dentist themselves or are nervous about the possibility of their child throwing a fit once they get to the office. Kids look to their parents for cues on how to act in a new situation and their first few trips to the dentist are no different. Keeping the visit as fun and lighthearted as possible and letting the dentist or hygienist take the reins during the appointment will make for a much smoother checkup than one where the parent nervously hovers around the child and makes a big fanfare about how much it won’t hurt.
The beauty of working with a dental office like Lifepoint is that we can work with your child from their very first visit all the way through their teenage and adult years. The earlier you begin to bring your child to the dentist, the more comfortable he or she will be with the dentist’s office. We can also begin to spot problems early such as incorrect teeth placement, gum problems or cavities.
Port, Dina Roth. (2012). 8 Tips to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Dentists. Parents Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/health/dental/kids-overcome-fear-dentists/