Parents pass down a lot of things to their children. Some, like receding hairlines, are an unfortunate inevitability. But others aren’t, such as the fear of going to the dentist. Recent studies have highlighted the important role that parents play in the transmission of dentist fear in their family.
The higher the level of dentist fear or anxiety in one family member, the higher the level in the rest of the family. Visiting the dentist doesn’t have to be scary. By focusing on managing anxiety and regularly bringing your child to the dentist starting at an early age, your child can have a pleasant – and even fun – experience.
Keep those “pearly whites” pearly. Bring your child into the dentist by his/her first birthday or when the first tooth arrives. Of course baby teeth don’t stay forever, but it’s still important to keep those tiny teeth – and pink gums – in the best shape possible while they’re saving spots for permanent teeth. When the first few visits are preventive and don’t involve extensive treatment, your child will in turn have a positive experience – and a healthier mouth!
Make the dentist visit fun. Don’t assume you’ll need to bribe your child to get her in the dentist’s chair. Remember that she hasn’t had any previous encounters with the drill and likely doesn’t feel any anxiety when it comes to the dentist. For your child, the dentist appointment could be as fun as being on an amusement ride. There are magic suction tools and the chair moves up and down! Stay positive and let your child enjoy her first dental visit.
Learn from the dentist. A big advantage to starting your child’s dental visits early is that you have the opportunity to ask the dentist questions about your child’s oral health. Is thumb-sucking okay? When do we get rid of the pacifier? Are the teeth coming in okay? And you’ll learn more about good oral-hygiene habits. For example, don’t put your child to bed with a bottle of soda, milk or juice (there are sugars in all of them) and don’t share drinks or food with your child. (The bacteria that cause cavities can be passed on from you to your child!)
Use friendly language. When the dentist needs to fix a small cavity, be honest with your child but use language the child can understand. Instead of words like drill, hurt, or shot, say for example, “The dentist is using sleepy juice to make your lip go to sleep.” This way, your child feels informed and in control without feeling scared.
Based on how your child’s first visit goes, your dentist will let you know when to make the next visit. Your child should visit the dentist every six months — as long as there are no major issues. Remember to book your child’s next appointment as you leave!