How to manage your child’s fear of the dentist
A visit to the dentist doesn't have to be a source of anxiety for your child. Changing your own outlook of how dentistry can help prevent problems before a crisis arises can avoid the onset of dental phobia in younger family members.
Avoid triggering anxiety
Speaking in a positive manner about how dental visits are important for health can initiate an awareness of self-care for health in your child.
Using phrases such as "You're going to be brave when you go aren't you?" can trigger a fear which was not present before.
Children look to their parents for guidance on what is safe and what is dangerous, so it is important not to portray the dentist as a place to be feared. Children are very sensitive to cues from older family members for what kind of attitude to carry when facing a new experience.
Visit the dentist at an early age
Toddlers have very few problems with their teeth when they first come through. This is the best time to bring them for their first check-up so they can begin to feel accustomed to the dental clinical environment in a stress free way. There's nothing worse than having to visit a dentist for the first time when your child is already in pain.
“Dental play” can be reading about stories of visiting the dentist. Or role playing at dentist and patient on the couch to accustom your child to having their mouth examined in a normal everyday way.
Positive anticipation of a dental appointment
Just like the lead up to Christmas or a beach holiday is as exciting as the event itself, so too can the anticipation of a dental visit. Positive reinforcement of the benefits of a dentist check-up can brighten your child's outlook of an upcoming appointment.
Education begins at home
Your child may have many questions about what happens at a dental visit and it may be easy to dismiss their curiosity with "You'll be fine, don't worry." However, not only will this instil anxiety in the unknown, you would have missed an opportunity to give your child their first lesson in health and the practical duties involved in maintaining one's health. Give honest answers like "The dentist is going to count your teeth." and "He'll check if the sweets you've eaten have made your teeth go rotten." or "He'll tell you if we're keeping them clean enough". This will slowly raise their awareness of their teeth and what is healthy for their teeth.