How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dreaded Dentist

Dr. McDowell and his friendly staff understand that the idea of scheduling an appointment to visit the office can make many patients feel more than a little anxious. Approximately 7 percent of all Americans avoid visiting the dentist out of fear, while another 20 percent experience severe enough dental anxiety that they will only schedule an appointment when absolutely necessary, according to statistics compiled by the Dental Fears Research Clinic.

Many individuals who experience dental anxiety developed the condition during their childhood, and have never been able to overcome their fears. To a child, a dentist’s office can seem like an exceptionally scary place, especially if mom and dad also get freaked out by the idea of visiting. If you want your children to feel comfortable while at Dr. McDowell’s office, you need to acclimate them to visiting at a young age, while also offering the right kind of encouragement.

Start at a Young Age

Tooth decay can begin to negatively affect your child’s oral health as soon as their first baby teeth begin to form. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents schedule their child’s first dental appointment just after they start teething, or by their first birthday.

By scheduling these early appointments, you provide Dr. McDowell the opportunity to look for and treat any signs of tooth decay. Neglecting to schedule your child’s first dental appointment until they get older gives harmful plaque a chance to cause tooth decay, and increases your child’s risk of developing an oral health problem.

If your child can never remember a time when they didn’t visit Dr. McDowell’s office for a routine cleaning, they are less likely to develop a fear of the dentist than if their first appointment doesn’t occur until after they have developed an oral health problem that requires an uncomfortable procedure to correct. Scheduling regular appointments for your kids will help protect them from tooth decay and keep them comfortable with the idea of visiting Dr. McDowell.

Don’t Over Prepare

For children who aren’t accustomed to visiting the dentist, many parents might feel the need to prepare their child by offering a detailed explanation of what to expect. Unfortunately, the more information a child has, the more they have to become anxious about. Instead of discussing the finer points of a dental exam, simply explain the process of arriving at the office, waiting until they hear their name, and then going back to sit in the dentist’s chair. At that point, Dr. McDowell and his experienced staff will provide your child with friendly explanations about what’s going to happen during the exam.

When trying to describe an exam, many parents may also be tempted to make promises that can’t control, such as the visit will be quick and painless. Promising your child a painless appointment, only for Dr. McDowell to discover an oral health problem that requires attention, could cause your child to distrust future visits to the dentist’s office.

Try Not to Relate

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make in preparing their child for a trip to the dentist is relating their own stories about feeling anxious or scared. Children look to their parents for strength and support. Telling your child about how mommy or daddy also get scared when visiting the dentist would be like telling them the monster that lives in the closet really freaks you out.

Additionally, don’t take your child to watch you during a dental visit as a warm up. If you’re like most people, you have a lifetime of dental neglect you must answer for when you sit down in the dentist’s chair. Trying to show your child that there is nothing to be afraid of won’t go over very well if mommy needs an unexpected cavity filling or surprise root canal.

Don’t Bribe

It’s not uncommon for parents to offer their child a reward if they act bravely while at the dentist. While you might interpret your offer of a treat as a reward for good behavior, when your child hears “If you don’t get scared and act real brave, we’ll get ice cream after,” their thought isn’t “Yeah, ice cream,” it’s “What do I have to be afraid of?” Instead of promising your child a reward prior to their appointment, compliment them on their good behavior after the appointment is over and reward them with a special activity, such as going to the park. Resist using treats such as ice cream or candy as a reward, as getting a sweet reward right after hearing about the importance of limiting the number of sweets they eat from Dr. McDowell can seem like conflicting ideas.

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