Starting early and starting small holds true even for dental hygiene and clinic visits. Instead of motivating kids with fear, educating them about their own bodies and familiarizing them with doctors at a young age will greatly reduce the stress of dental visits.
1. Don’t make the dentist into a bogeyman.
Scaring your children into brushing their teeth every night with dental horror stories is a bad way to get them to take care of their teeth. Such tactics only backfire when you have to take kids to the dentists. Instead, praise them when they brush and educate them about the importance of dental hygiene in a non-threatening way
2. Take them with you on appointments
Let kids observe you on a dentist’s chair early on to see that there is nothing to be afraid of. When they accompany you for your appointments, it familiarises them with your dentist and the dental clinic. This reduces their anxiety on their own visits.
3. Pique their Curiosity
Teach them about their mouths early on, just like you teach them about colours, days of the week or reading and counting. Educate them about the different parts of the mouth and how to take care of them. Make it a scientific and fun game. This way, they will learn to care about their body early and will keep dental phobia in check.
4. Don’t stress over cavities
In the event your child develops cavities (which is bound to happen), do not worry or stress over it. Kids pick up negative emotions and will reflect it back on your or the dentist. Do not say things like, “Oh my god, now we’ll have to go to the dentist.” Instead, say “Looks like we will need to show it to Dr. <insert name>” in a calm and normal tone. This makes your child think there’s nothing out of the ordinary with a dental visit.
5. Don’t prep the child for pain
Nobody looks forward to pain. If you think your child’s treatment is going to involve pain of some sort, do not warn the child in anticipation. This does nothing other than make the child nervous and dread the dental visit. If your child asks you whether a treatment will be painful, gently remind them that they will feel a lot better once the dentist has fixed the problem. This helps your child look beyond the pain, to the advantage of a dental treatment.