Going to the local dentist office for a routine cleaning or a few fillings may be commonplace to you, but it can be very frightening for young children. Even if your child has never had a bad experience, the sights, smells and sounds can be scary and having a stranger poking around with metal objects can be uncomfortable. Here are some tips for making sure your child is confident and compliant at the dentist’s office.
Seek Out a Children’s Dentist
It takes special skills to work with children. Their mouths are physically smaller, meaning there is less space to work. Some children gag very easily and may heave if a tool or finger brushes their tongue or roof of their mouth. Children may also have a shorter attention span or be less able to control their tongue during dental work. A children’s dentist will have the special tools and patience required to work with kids.
Practice at Home
If the only time an adult looks in a child’s mouth is at the dentist’s office, it can seem very invasive and uncomfortable to the child. Have your child recline with their head in your lap and look in their mouth with a small flashlight. Use their toothbrush to count their teeth and inspect them. If your child has a sensitive gag reflex, work on having him or her gently press the toothbrush against their own tongue to learn not to gag. Make it fun and normal to practice dental hygiene at home.
Avoid Horror Stories and Scary Words
Try not to talk about shots, needles, drills and pain and instead use words like numbing medicine, cleaning machine, ‘fixing tool,’ vibration and pressure. Explain to your child that dental procedures shouldn’t hurt, and that the sensations of pressure and vibration can be unusual but not something to be feared. If you are a nervous patient yourself or have had bad experiences, try not to let your child see your apprehension or overhear your horror stories.
Make Dental Care Routine
Take your child to the dentist every six months as soon as their first tooth erupts. This will allow them to grow up with dental care being commonplace. Don’t wait until your child has nearly a full set of teeth! Children need to start going to the local dentist office and practicing dental hygiene very young to develop comfort with these routines.
Children can be afraid at the dentist’s office, even if they’ve never had a bad experience. If your child needs dental work, call our office today to schedule an appointment.