How to Make Your Little Ones More Comfortable at a Dental Clinic
Your child’s oral health is largely in your hands. Unfortunately, taking your little ones to see a dentist can sometimes be a trying experience. But just because your kids don’t want to go doesn’t mean that they don’t have to go, and that’s why it’s important to do whatever you can to make them feel more at ease about seeing a dental professional on a regular or semi-regular basis. Here are a few tips to make these trips a little easier—both for your child, and for you.
Start Young and Stay Regular
How soon should you start taking your child to a dental clinic for their first check-up? Not long after their first tooth erupts, or after their first birthday, whichever comes first. As soon as your child has teeth, those teeth will need to be looked after. And by starting them young, you can help them become more comfortable with the environment and process, making it seem more natural for them. By scheduling regular checkups—every six months is considered standard—you can also ingrain the routine, making it even easier as time goes on.
Keep It Positive—but Not Too Positive
You obviously don’t want to scare your child when taking them to see a dentist. Avoid using words like “drill,” “hurt,” “pain,” or anything else with a negative connotation. Instead, when they are very young, try telling them that they will be having their teeth counted, or their smile checked—something true, but avoiding the negative.
That being said, know when to draw the line. Don’t tell your child that the procedure won’t hurt or that nothing will be wrong, because if this ends up not being true, your child may lose trust in both you and in their dentist.
Do a “Rehearsal” Visit
To help your child become comfortable with the idea of visiting a dental clinic, do a mock-rehearsal in a familiar environment—the comfort of your own home! Being gentle and friendly at every step along the way, count their teeth out loud, and then, using a soft toothbrush, give them a gentle cleaning as you normally would. To increase their enthusiasm for the process, suggest to them that they role-play as a dentist, encouraging them to repeat the process on a doll, figure, or stuffed toy. During this rehearsal, don’t make any drilling noises or do anything else that may frighten your child.
If your child is still nervous about visiting a dental clinic, let them bring a little bit of home with them. A good comfort item is any favourite belonging, whether it’s a toy, a handheld video game system, a book, or even a blanket. Such an item can become an anchor to help them feel more at-home in the clinic waiting room. Suddenly, trips to the dentist are a breeze!