Up to 36% of adults in the U.S. get nervous when they visit the dentist’s office, and kids are no different. But it’s important to remember that good oral hygiene and regular visits to the family dentistry office help to keep cavities and gum disease away.
Of course, knowing your child needs to visit the dentist and keeping your child calm during their appointment are two different things. How can you ease your child’s fears and keep them calm during their visit? Here are six tips you can use to help your child feel at ease while their teeth are cleaned.
1. Explain what the dentist will do
Oftentimes, dental anxiety is because of our fears of the unknown. Kids especially don’t know what to expect when it comes to their family dentistry office, which can leave them feeling uneasy and even scared. For instance, they may have heard about “the drill” in a dentist’s office and assume they’re going to be undergoing oral surgery when really their family dentist is going to be examining and gently cleaning their teeth.
To ease their fears, tell them exactly what the dentist will do during their appointment. You can even ask your family dentist to explain what they’re doing during your child’s appointment so your child is always in the know. Having a children’s dentist explain their tools during the appointment and what they’re for (if your child wants to know) is also a good way to help ease their fears.
2. Make sure your child has eaten before coming into the office
It’s not uncommon for parents to arrive for their child’s dentist appointment a few hours before or after lunchtime. When kids are hungry, they can get irritable and upset. Opt for a teeth-friendly snack like apple slices, carrots, celery, or a cheese stick. Don’t worry about a snack getting your child’s teeth messy before their dentist’s appointment. After all, your child’s pediatric dentist is there to give them a clean and healthy smile!
3. Bring your child’s favorite toy
Comfort items are a great way to help ease your child’s fears when they’re at the dentist. Stuffed animals, action figures, dolls, a blanket, or fidget toys can help your child feel less anxious because they’re holding something familiar. Fidget toys can also be great for easing anxiety because they give your child something to focus on and ground themselves when they feel nervous. While fidget spinners are common fidget toys, other options include fidget cubes, flippy chains, and squishy toys.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
Hunger isn’t the only thing that can make your child irritable and upset. Not getting enough sleep can make anyone cranky. Make sure that your child goes to sleep at their bedtime so they’re well-rested when they arrive for their appointment. Being well-rested will not only put your child in a better mood but it will also help them feel better physically since lack of sleep can sometimes make your child feel sick.
5. Bring something for your child to play with
Many pediatric dentists offer toys and games in the waiting room for kids to play with. However, if your child is nervous about their visit, they might benefit from playing with an activity or game from home such as a coloring book, activity book, video game, or tablet. Not only does this help to keep your child entertained while they wait, but it also helps to keep them distracted so they don’t get caught up in their fears.
6. Teach your child to say what they’re feeling
A great technique you can use to help ease your child’s anxieties is “say it out loud.” Teaching your child to say out loud that they’re nervous or scared helps to keep those feelings from building up. According to research, vocalizing and labeling your emotions can help to lessen the feelings of anxiety in both teens and adults. Consider teaching your child other self-soothing techniques as well such as breathing exercises and listening to music.
Visiting the family dentistry office can sometimes be nerve-wracking when you’re not sure what to expect. But by following the tips above, you can help to mitigate your child’s fears and help them feel better about visiting their pediatric dentist. If your child is very nervous, they may benefit from pediatric dental sedation. Smilez Pediatric Dental Group safely administers pediatric dental sedation 250,000 times a year. For more information on pediatric dental sedation or what you can do to help ease your child’s dental fears, contact your local family dentistry practice at Smilez Pediatric Dental Group today.