At some point, most of us are going to end up in a dentist's chair. That’s a pretty depressing thought, because no one likes going to the dentist. Did you know there’s actually a name for being afraid of dentists? Odontophobia is a bad enough affliction to suffer from as an adult, but for children it can be downright terrifying. Being made to sit in an uncomfortable chair in a bright, sterile room while a stranger in a face mask pokes about in your mouth with all sorts of pointy contraptions is no laughing matter. The bad news is that dentist visits aren’t going away anytime soon. As long as humans have teeth, we’re going to have to look after them. The good news is that there are a host of ways you can make a trip to the dentists a whole lot less scary for the kids. Here’s how.
Start ‘em young.
There’s nothing better for preventing the development of a fear of something that getting used to it young in life. Kid’s should ideally have their first dental checkup before they turn two. By the time they’re four or five they won’t even remember that first visit and it’ll feel like they’ve been visiting their good friend the dentist forever.
Choose the right dentist.
Just because you like chatting to your dentist about the footy scores doesn’t mean she’s necessarily the best person to look after your kid’s teeth as well. Pediatric dentists specialise in children’s dentistry. That doesn’t just mean they choose to only look after children’s teeth, it means they’ve done further study and training in order to become experts in making the dentist experience as enjoyable as possible for little ones.
Make it a game.
Before a child even has their first dentist appointment, make a game out of it using stuffed toys or your own teeth. Help your kids count their own teeth and turn the whole idea of “going to the dentist’s” into a game. Kids will often play “doctor” so try getting them playing “dentist” as well to normalise the entire process.
If you’re scared of the dentists yourself and you regularly bemoan the fact that you have to go, your own kids will quickly notice your fear and adopt it themselves. Try to stay quiet on the topic so a not to associate the word dentist with pain or fear.
Regular dental visits are key to making sure kids don’t fear the dentists. This isn’t just down to getting them used to the place, it’s also because if the only time they visit a dentist is when there’s something wrong, they’ll soon start to associate it with the unpleasant experiences they’ve had with their teeth. Regular six month checkups will quickly become routine, and since these visits will nearly always involve nothing more than a brief check, the fear factor will dissipate.
Don’t give up.
If your child has already developed a fear of dentists, don’t indulge this fear by caving into their protestations against going for a visit. Don’t avoid making appointments because you know it will end in strife between you and your child. Try your best to develop a routine and start the process of negating the fear they’ve already developed. The younger they are when you do this, the better the results will be. If you don’t, then they could easily carry the fear into adulthood.
Don’t say it might hurt.
Nothing is more guaranteed to put a kid’s fear into overdrive than telling them something might hurt in advance. There’s simply no need to say anything or the sort, as it won’t do anything for the pain, of which there might not even be any! Warning your children that going to the dentist’s might be painful will do nothing but foster apprehension.