A child’s first dental visit can be a very intimidating experience. They will probably not know what to expect and have a fear of the unknown. The child might even fear that they are going to get hurt.
Parents may not know how to address this fear, but do not be concerned about your kid being afraid of the dentist. About 16% of children in the United States have a fear of dentists, and about 5% of the general population does as well.
One way that you can help combat this as a parent is by preparing for dental visits. How do you go about reducing dental anxiety in a child?
These are some ideas that you should consider.
Using Toys and Props
An easy way to prepare a child for what they might expect at a dentist’s office is by using toys or props to demonstrate. An example could be a stuffed animal or a doll that has teeth.
You can get a playset or a close representation of the tools that a dentist will use on the child’s mouth.
Start out by showing the child what the dentist is going to do yourself. Then, once the child gets the idea of what will happen, you can have them do it to the toy to get them more comfortable with this idea.
Practice in Advance
Another way to prepare to visit the dentist for kids is to prepare for it in advance. This means having a dress rehearsal of some sort with your child.
You can do this by pretending to be the dentist and telling your kid to lay back in a chair. You do not have to use tools like the dentist does by trying to simulate this as best you can.
Some ways that you can do this are by having brighter lights in your house, having your child lay down, and putting a paper towel or bib on their stomach.
You also want to try and get the child used to the idea of the dentist poking their fingers and tools in their mouth. To simulate this, you could use your finger to get them more comfortable with the idea of having the dentist in their personal space.
A simple idea for this that a lot of people forget is to simply be empathetic about your child’s concerns. You have to place yourself in their shoes.
They probably have never been to the dentist before and have no idea what they are walking into. In their minds, it could be the equivalent of walking down a dark alley at night.
Do not just talk to your child about their concerns but listen to them and measure your response based on exactly what they say. You can tell your child that you understand their fears and that it is ok to be afraid.
As a parent, you are the leader of your household. That means that you need to have the traits of a leader to succeed, and one of those traits tends to be empathy.
In this poll, 76% of people who received empathy from a leader responded with engagement. That percentage goes down by more than half if they do not receive empathy.
Put yourself in their shoes, and you are more likely to have a realistic conversation that both sides can be satisfied with.
Visualize the Experience
Practicing on toys and as a dress rehearsal is one thing, but a child seeing how a dentist operates with their own eyes can help them visualize the real experience.
The goal of this is to hopefully get the child to understand that the dentist does not do anything out of the ordinary. The goal is to simply clean their teeth and make sure that everything is in order.
One way to visualize the experience is through educational television. Shows designed for younger audiences are very likely to go through a topic like this because they tend to be aware of what a child fears.
With that in mind, find out what shows your kid likes to watch. Once you do that, see if you can find an episode or a video clip that talks about one of the characters from the show going to a dentist.
Consider a Pediatric Dentist
Finally, a pediatric dentist may be the best move if it is your child’s first dental visit compared to a dentist that sees patients of all ages. That is because a pediatric dentist works exclusively with kids, and they are more likely to have seen this situation come up before.
If someone actively chooses to work with kids, they are more likely to be patient and understanding with kids. Even better, they will know how to address the fears and concerns that the child may have.
Sometimes, the best answer to solving your problem is finding someone to help that knows your audience. In this case, it is a dentist that has more experience working with children.
Be Ready for Your Child’s First Dental Visit
These are just five tips on how you can prepare your child for their first dental visit. It is completely normal for your child to have concerns, but if they are addressed accordingly, then you are more likely to have your child have a positive experience at the dentist.
Are you looking for a dentist that can fit your child’s needs? Message us today to make an appointment and ask any questions you might have.