First words, first steps, first days at school – there are a lot of moments we never want to miss as parents. Of course, there are also a few moments we could do without… Children often act out when they’re introduced to new environments because they feel scared or anxious. Dental offices, in particular, seem to affect children the most adversely. Many people attribute this fear to the sound of drills or the negative portrayal of dentists on TV. Whatever the reason may be, having temperamental children at the dentist’s office can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. Luckily, with a little foresight and preparation, it is possible to avoid these situations! At Kids Healthy Teeth, we’ve compiled a few tips to make our patients’ and their families’ visits to the office as fun and effortless as possible.
1. Show, don’t tell!
Take your child to one of your dentist appointments! When they see how calm and collected mommy/daddy is, they will mimic your behavior. They will also understand that nothing bad will happen.
2. Make expectations clear.
Let your child know early on what they can expect. Tell them when and where the appointment is going to be, so they aren’t caught off guard. Anxiety often stems from confusion and fear of the unknown. As you explain what will happen, also let your child know how you expect them to act. No tantrums will be tolerated!
3. Bring a familiar friend.
Having an element from home can put your child at ease in new environments. If your child has a particular stuffed animal or toy that they love, let them bring it to the dentist’s appointment, too!
4. Go early.
Going to the pediatric dentist’s office 15 – 30 minutes early will ensure that you can finish all your paperwork and have time to get acclimated to the office space. You can take the time to walk around with your child, play games in the waiting room, or use the toilet. At Kids Healthy Teeth, we have lots of books, toys, and movies playing, so kids have plenty to do before they meet with the dentist. It will also be a lot less stressful if you’re not running late!
5. Ask your dentist for a little help.
At Kids Healthy Teeth, our pediatric dentist will introduce herself to your child and make sure they’re comfortable before she proceeds. For kids who are especially anxious, our doctor can also walk your child through the dental exam step-by-step. It’s important for your child to have a positive, trusting relationship with their dentist! They’ll be much more cooperative.
If you don’t have a pediatric dentist who specializes in behavior management and communication, you might have to facilitate this bonding yourself. Most dentists will be happy to engage in a bit of small talk with your child first.
6. Be chill.
Kids can smell fear. For real. It’s a sixth sense! If you’re scared, your child may pick up on it and start to feel the same way. To keep the both of you calm, we recommend listening to some relaxing music on the way to the dentist’s office. You can also bring a magazine or book to distract yourself while you’re in the office.
7. Use positive reinforcement.
If your kids associate the dentist with their favorite food or activity, they’ll be more likely to want to go next time! Reward your child by treating them out after the dentist’s office. Rather than getting sweets, however, we recommend letting kids pick out their own toothbrush or going out for pizza afterward. You can then reinforce positive dental habits. In this case, that would be brushing teeth and consuming calcium.
Give them a big high five, hug, and words of affirmation before, throughout, and after the appointment, too! Often, these small acts are much more valuable than any material things.
8. Have fun!
It’s not hard to convince your kids that the dentist is fun if the dentist is actually fun! Pediatric dentists work hard to ensure their dental offices are friendly environments where kids can actually enjoy themselves. There are also lots of interesting things you and your child can learn about oral hygiene.
We understand that every child is different, so these tips may not work for every patient. Nevertheless, we still encourage parents to try them out! After all, creating a dental home for your child early on is extremely important as it can affect how they approach dental care and dentist appointments for the rest of their lives.
If you’re in need of a pediatric dentist, look no further! Kids Healthy Teeth is a pediatric dental office located in Katy, TX dedicated to treating children of all ages and needs. Give us a call or check out our website to learn more about what we can offer you.