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  • Anderson Family Dental

Helping Your Child Feel Confident at the Dentist

Good experiences in the dental office can set your child up for a lifetime of excellent oral health. However, many kids find the dental office environment intimidating and overwhelming.


Let’s face it: it can even be hard for adults to tolerate dental procedures. It’s even harder for kids, who may have trouble sitting still on a good day and may not understand what’s happening or why they need to see the dentist.


How can you help your child have good dental experiences so they can enjoy a strong, healthy smile for life? 


confident child smiling at dentist

SET THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS: TALK ABOUT IT!

The first, and probably most important thing you can do is talk to your children about the dentist.


Here are some examples to share with your children:

  • The dentist is here to help. It’s their job to make sure your teeth stay strong and healthy.

  • Everyone in the dental office cares about you. They want you to feel comfortable, so you can tell them if you feel nervous or need to take a break.

  • It’s okay to feel scared or not want to do this. We’ll be there to help you get through it.

  • Some of the things we need to do might feel uncomfortable, but you’re safe. The dentist will do everything they can to help you stay comfortable.


It’s important to keep these conversations focused on the positive as much as possible. But it can also help if they know what to expect.


If you think your child would benefit from knowing the step-by-step process of their visit, be sure to put it in age-appropriate terms. We try to avoid saying words like drill or shot.

Instead, describe things gently in a way they’ll understand.


So for a cavity filling, for example, we might say that the dentist is going to polish away the sick part of the tooth and make it strong again. They might give the tooth some medicine before they start so it can take a nap while it’s getting fixed. 


WHAT NOT TO SAY

One of the biggest mistakes many parents make is to make dental care seem like a punishment.


It can be so hard to get kids to brush their teeth. So many of us may say things like “If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get cavities, and the dentist will have to give you shots and drill your teeth.”

Then if the day ever comes that they need a filling, the scenario has been built up in their mind as something bad. It’s a consequence of not doing what they were supposed to do.


No wonder many kids come to our chair feeling fearful and want nothing to do with the dentist!

In your day-to-day conversations, be sure to always frame the dentist as a helper, not a punishment.

Just as important as talking directly to children about the dentist, be careful about what you say in front of them (even if you don’t think they’re listening). Children overhear a lot. 


So if you’re letting your best friend know how much you hated your last cleaning, your child might start to feel anxious and negative about their next visit. Try to save those conversations for when your child isn’t around.


LET THEM ASK QUESTIONS

Kids are naturally curious. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and try to answer their questions as honestly as possible.


Of course, you may not have a thorough understanding of an upcoming visit. In that case, help them come up with a list of a few questions to bring to their visit!


We’re always happy to answer any questions you or your child have.


PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Many children love to play at different jobs. They might pretend to be a teacher or veterinarian.

Why not a dentist?


You can lie on the sofa and give your child a flashlight and let them look at your teeth and pretend to take care of your teeth. Seeing the process from the dentist’s point of view can help replace feelings of anxiety with curiosity and exploration.


You can also help them practice being a good patient by switching places and mimicking what their visit might feel like. This is also a great way to do a very thorough job brushing their teeth.


BRING DISTRACTIONS

When the day arrives, a few props can make the whole visit more tolerable.


Try to bring:

  • Sunglasses. The overhead light can be uncomfortable for kids.

  • Earplugs or headphones. This will cut down on sensory overload from the sounds of the polisher or drill.

  • Fidget toys or a comfort item. Keeping their hands busy or having a familiar, comforting item to hold will help them focus less on feeling uncomfortable.

  • A small blanket. Some kids may feel chilly when they get anxious. A blanket can be comforting. 


You may be able to bring a tablet or device to watch videos but ask your dental team first. These devices can sometimes get in the way of their instruments and prevent kids from turning their head the right way for them to be able to work. 


FING THE RIGHT TEAM AND SCHEDULE SMART!

The most important thing you can do to help your child feel comfortable at the dental office? Find the right dentist! Our Winter Park dental team is here to help. 


As parents, Drs. Kathleen and Bryant Anderson understand the struggle of helping your child feel comfortable in a medical environment. They know how important it is to provide a welcoming, comforting presence for kids.


Scheduling the visit at the right time of day is another key to a good experience. For very young children, that may mean being aware of naptime and avoiding scheduling their appointments when they would usually be asleep.


It’s tempting to leave dental visits until the end of the day so they don’t miss school. But at the end of a long day, kids can be worn out, making it harder to tolerate the discomfort of a dental appointment.

Most kids do better with early morning visits. At Anderson Family Dental, in Winter Park, we’re proud to offer flexible scheduling, including early mornings, so your whole family can get the care they need at a time that works for them!


Call us to schedule a dental cleaning and check-up for your child.


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