This is a guest post by Rebecca Harper.
Teaching children to take good care of their teeth is one of the many tasks parents face. The habits they form as children will last a lifetime, and this goes beyond brushing twice a day.
Getting your child into the habit of visiting the dentist every 6 months is something that will serve them well right into adulthood. It’s not uncommon for children who are scared of the dentist to grow up into adults who are scared of the dentist.
As we get older, these phobias become more complex. And adults who are afraid of something are very apt at rationalizing their avoidance. A bad experience or association with the dentist can easily be avoided if the parent is actively trying to create more positive associations.
If you want to make your child’s trip to the dentist more fun, try some of these simple methods.
Create A Star Chart
Children often fear the dentist because they are worried about “getting in trouble”. It’s important to reassure your child that dental problems aren’t something to be ashamed of, and if they need a filling, it doesn’t mean they have been bad.
Instead, you can encourage your child to take good care of their teeth so they can show their dentist how well they have been doing. The best way to do this is with a star chart.
Every time they brush their teeth, morning and night, they get a star. They then have something they can proudly show their dentist, which will take some of the attention away from their fear of being at the dentist.
Make Up A New Language
To ensure your child doesn’t develop of a fear of the dentist, it’s important that you watch your language when you talk about the dentist. A lot of the terms used will be far too complex for your child to understand, but there are some words that will be familiar, such as ‘hurt’, ‘pain’, or ‘needle’.
Some dentists swear by phrases like “check your smile” or “count your teeth” as a surefire way to get children to relax in the dentist’s chair. You can take this one step further by making up your own works for things with your child.
Ask your dentist to join in and teach them all your new words for instruments, such as counting sticks (sickle probe) or spy mirrors (mouth mirror).
Play Dress Up
Dressing up is a powerful tool that can help to distract children from their fears. Dressing up as their favourite superhero can help to fill them with confidence.
The only thing to avoid would be helmets or masks, as this could make it difficult for your dentist to examine their teeth. It’s also important not to use language like “brave” or telling them to be a “big boy” or “big girl” as this can make them feel like their thoughts, fears and behaviours are wrong.
Instead, reward them for the good behaviour and comfort them through the bad behaviour.
Plan A Reward
Your child will be less likely to be scared of a dentist appointment if they have a positive memory of the last time they went. Always plan a treat or reward for your child, regardless of how the appointment goes.
It’s important not to withhold the treat, even if the appointment is disastrous. It might feel like rewarding bad behaviour, but it’s important that your child starts to associate dentist appointments with positive memories.
Find The Right Dentist
Some dentists and their practice staff just have an amazing way with children, and it’s worth looking for a dentist that your child likes. This will depend entirely on your child and their preferences.
Some will love a clown dentist who is always making funny faces, while more shy children might be more comfortable with a softly-spoken dentist who runs a very calm practice.
Look around your local area for dentists and ask your friends with kids for recommendations. Once you’ve found a good dentist, you might find that you child stays with the same dentist until they leave home, so it’s worth looking around for someone they like.
With a bit of planning you can easily make a trip to the dentist less daunting for your child. One of the most important things to remember is that it’s only a 15-minute visit every six months, so it shouldn’t occupy your child’s mind for too long.
Some children will always be afraid of the dentist, and there’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to keep their fear in perspective. With advances in dental care, there are more and more non-invasive ways to care for and fix dental problems, so there’s a chance that drills won’t be be a factor in dental care in 10-years time.
Until then, put on that superhero costume and let your dentist catch those pesky sugar bugs!
Author Bio: Rebecca Harper is a freelance writer and beauty journalist living in Manchester. She works alongside Dental Solutions, a private dentist in Warrington to research the changing trends in family dentistry.