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Kids and Dentists – Easing A Toddler’s Fear of The Dentist

Practicing good oral hygiene is the secret to having healthy teeth and gums. One way to achieve that is by having regular dental check-ups. However, kids and dentists do not always see eye to eye. If your toddler is afraid of the dentist, here are some tips to try that can help your child relax.

Start Early

The earlier a toddler visits the dentist, the better. Not only will this help acquaint your toddler with what to expect and improve your child’s comfort with the dentist but this will also prevent cavities and other oral health problems. It is best to start that visit after his first birthday or when the first tooth is visible.

Choose A Good Dentist

Having a good dentist is very important to ensure your toddler has a positive experience during his early years so that he does not develop a lifelong fear of dentists. Find a pediatric dentist (an oral care provider specially trained to handle children) that is friendly, patient, empathetic, engaging and has a good sense of humor.

Prep Your Toddler

Discuss the significance of going to the dentist but try not to reveal too many details. Keep a positive outlook and explain things in a casual manner. If he has questions, answer them straight to the point, but, never use the words “shot”, “hurt” and “painful” as you will only aggravate his fear. Just tell him that you are going to the dentist to count his teeth and check his smile.

Another way you can prepare your child is to read picture books about dentists (try Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit To The Dentist or Going To The Dentist (Usborne First Experiences) by Anne Civargi). Also, you might want to consider role playing the situation. Pretend that you and your toddler are going to the dentist. Ask your little one to be the dentist and you are his patient. Never bring your child to your own dentist appointment to expose him. Your child’s pediatric dentist’s clinic is different from your dentist’s.

Keep Your Cool

You may be as nervous as your toddler but you should never talk about your fear of the dentist to your little one. Remember, you are your child’s role model and once you show your anxiety, your toddler will probably pick up the feeling. Keep your unpleasant experience to yourself for now.

Time It Right

Schedule your appointment at a time your toddler is in the mood. Most parents go for a morning appointment when children are neither exhausted nor sleepy. Remember, a well-rested and well-fed child is a happy toddler and a happy child means lesser outbursts.

Show Moral Support

On the day of your appointment, stay close to your toddler. Let him sit on your lap on the dental chair. Hold his hand and talk in a low voice and say “It is okay honey. You can do it.”. Distract him by telling stories, asking him to take deep breaths or make him look at the photos on the wall. Once he is done, praise him for a job well done.

In addition, be sure to keep this tip in mind - never bribe your toddler just so he will stop fussing or crying. Doing so will only boost his fear. Plus, giving him a candy as a reward sends the wrong message after the dentist stresses that having strong teeth means avoiding sweets.

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