Helping Your Child Feel Better About the Dentist

Everyone had a childhood fear: clowns, the dark, needles, vegetables, other children, and monsters. The list goes on. And somewhere around snakes and spiders, or between Furbies and Dracula, there was the dentist.

The strange people, the masks, the machines, and the lights can be a shock to a child. The pediatric dentist tells you to open wide like horrible creatures that want to eat you in the wild! It’s all overwhelming and strange.

The dentist can also easily overwhelm the senses. Dental tools are going in places they never went before!

But these fears can be quelled with a little calming and soothing. Explain to the kids why one visit to the dentist a year is a good thing.

They need to care for their teeth

Remind them that a healthy mouth is a healthy body. If your gums and teeth are in good shape, odds are everything else is in good shape. Eyes are a window to the soul, and dental hygiene is an insight into how healthy your lifestyle is.

More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral signs and symptoms, including cancer and AIDS. Dentists are certified professionals who go to school for years so that they can save lives.

Plaque and other oral infections are also linked to diseases and conditions, such as diabetes and colorectal cancer. Remind the kids that it’s better to learn to cut back on the cookies now than to lose your teeth and be a teenager with dentures, or worse, an early adult forced to learn facts about colon cancer because of poor oral hygiene.

The machines and noises are harmless

The machines aren’t out to get you, and strange noises are a part of life. The earlier children learn this, the better. Life won’t always be comfortable or feel safe, but not always for bad reasons. Being nervous and experiencing discomfort after any surgery is normal. But there could be necessary surgeries and medical attention in their future.

You can ask your child’s dentist to explain some of the tools and machines before the examination begins. And tell them they can close their eyes if the light gets too bright.

Happy smiles are the best smiles, and when the dentist finishes his work, everything gets better. And if your kids are diligent teeth-brushers and they’re careful about what they eat, they (hopefully) will need to see the dentist only for checkups.

The dentist isn’t evil

Little Shop of Horrors is a horrible movie to watch before going to the dentist, and it’s a vast misrepresentation of dentistry. Becoming a dentist means years of education and tests. The dentist isn’t evil.

Adults can read reviews and listen to your dentist’s other patients to reassure them of the dentist’s good nature. And technology helps to ease pain or discomfort.

Toys and gifts

Bribery works, for kids and for adults. Dentists commonly have treasure or treat boxes or at least stickers. Would a bad guy give away free Elsa stickers? These things form a positive association and encourage kids to power through their examination.

In the modern age, you can also find TV, video games — much more than just magazines to entertain you at some dentist offices. Dentists really do care.

Make the kids feel a little better after a dental procedure. Go do something fun or treat them after a regular visit. It might make the next visit go more smoothly.

New things, people and places are scary for kids. But they don’t have to be. Dentistry is a necessity, and it’s far from scary. Teach this to your kids when they’re still young. Even if they have a cavity, they will remember the free stickers.

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