We have anxious children in general, Jude more than Teagan but both are super anxious about dental visits. Their first visits years ago went perfectly. But once both of them had been to the dentist once, their anxiety grew. I am not really sure why because they have always had perfect dental reports. Either way, we have found some tips for taking an anxious child to the dentist that has helped us on those dentist days.
6 Tips For Taking An Anxious Child To The Dentist
Talk About Healthy Dental Care
Healthy teeth and gums are so important. That being said, we as parents should be teaching our kids healthy dental practices like brushing teeth and flossing but also about going to the dentist regularly. The more parents talk about why we visit the dentist can help children understand that the visit is important. We make sure we talk about healthy dental care every day while the kids are brushing their teeth.
Start At A Young Age
Both of our kids had their first dentist appointment at 18 months and we started brushing teeth around 12 months. Starting young allows kids to get used to the routine of going to the dentist every 6 months. The earlier your child begins the dentist visit routine the better.
Children, especially anxious children, need to have predictability in their life. Letting your child know of an upcoming dentist visit in advance will give them time to mentally prepare for the visit. Allow your child to ask questions and express any fears. We let our kids know when they are going to the dentist about two weeks in advance. It helps them ask anything they need to and let us know their thoughts. Surprising them by a visit to the dentist would result in meltdowns and anxiety attacks for sure!
Love Your Dental Practice
Find a dental practice with a friendly staff and a gentle dentist. And once you find that practice make sure you are consistent and do not jump from practice to practice. This allows your child to get comfortable with the office and staff. It doesn’t have to be a specialty pediatric practice but finding dental staff with warmth and a good sense of humor can be helpful! Dental offices that restrain, criticize, or belittle your child should be avoided for obvious reasons.
Careful With Your Words
The words that can be terrifying would include – hurt, pain, shot. Just like you want to dental staff to talk appropriately to your kids you as a parent need to do the same. Let the staff introduce their own vocabulary to children to help them get through difficult situations. Use positive phrases like “clean, strong, healthy teeth” to make the visit seem fun and good rather than scary and alarming.
Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst!
One visit can be way different than the next. It can all depend on the mood of the kiddo. Visiting the dentist can be very overwhelming and scary for any child, but especially an anxious child. Having to let go of control for that anxious child can be too much. Go into each visit with positive affirmations and hope for a great visit but be prepared for the worst. Yes, I have been that mom that has to deal with a complete meltdown in the dentist office. It happens and being prepared for it is key.
While we are no experts in this area, we do believe that these tips have helped our anxious kids get through their dental exams with a little less anxiety and worry. As you venture into your kid’s appointments make sure you are reassuring them that you are present and involved in their dental care.