Studies show that between 9% and 15% of Americans put off dental visits due to fear, even though they realize their fear is irrational. Children absorb their parents' words, attitudes and behaviors like little human sponges, so parents who fear the dentist will do whatever they can to help their children avoid similar discomfort. Whether you have some level of dental fear or not, it's important to help your child adopt a positive attitude regarding dental care to ensure a lifetime of healthy teeth.
If you begin dental visits while your child is pre-verbal, ie, after the first tooth has erupted, with repeated visits your child will perceive our office as a safe and familiar place.
Choose Your Words
Avoid words like shot, pain, or hurt. Our NYC pediatric dentist and her dental staff have words and phrases that they routinely use with children. If you aren't sure what to tell your child about an upcoming visit, you can say, "Dr. Kherani is going to count your teeth and check your smile."
Role Play at Home
Use a stuffed toy or a doll to approximate a dental exam. Read books to your child about dental visits (Follow this link for more than 100 dental books for kids on Amazon.com). Play-Doh makes a toy called Dr. Drill 'n Fill that allows your child to play with dental "tools," and create teeth with Play-Doh; your child should be at least 3 years old for this activity.
- Avoid Bribery or Punishment
It's not unusual for children to fuss at the dentist's office. Bribing them with the promise of a special treat if they "are brave" suggests to them that there's something to be afraid of. Punishing them or threatening them with punishment when they fuss will only make matters worse. Again, our staff is skilled in children's dental treatments. Your child won't be the first one fidgeting, fussing and/or crying during a dental visit.
It's Not Negotiable
Just like going to the pediatrician's office, dental visits are non-negotiable. They are part of a healthy lifestyle. Helping your child understand this is key to cooperation. If you, the parent, keep a positive attitude and are honest but not overly detailed, then your child is likely to do just fine.