Is your child afraid of going to the dentist? If so, they’re not alone.

Dental anxiety is a common problem among children. In fact, the results of one study showed that 42 percent of children experienced dental fear leading up to their appointment.

It’s normal for your child to feel nervous about sitting in the dentist’s chair. They don’t have to remain afraid, though. There are lots of things you can do as a parent to make their dental appointments more enjoyable.

If you’re having a hard time getting your child excited about going to the dentist, here are seven tips that can help.

1. Take a Tour

If your child has never been to the dentist’s office before, it helps to bring them in before their appointment to take a tour.

This will give them a chance to get familiar with the office and feel more at ease when they arrive for their actual appointment.

You might also want to call ahead and ask if you can arrange for your child to say hi to the dentist and hygienist who will work with them.

2. Play “Dentist” at Home

It helps to get your child comfortable with having someone look at and touch their teeth.

Often, when kids get nervous at the dentist’s office, it’s because they’re in unfamiliar territory and having a brand new experience.

Spend some time playing “dentist” with your child at home so they feel more confident when they arrive for their appointment. Have them lean back in a chair while you look at their teeth, and let them look at yours, too.

3. Give Them Some Control

Giving children choices and allowing them to feel somewhat in control of their situation can work wonders for those who tend to be anxious or emotional in new settings. 

At the dentist’s office, there are lots of opportunities for them to make choices for themselves. The dentist will likely let them choose the flavor of toothpaste used to clean their teeth and what TV show or movie is played while they work.

Don’t try to step in and make decisions for your child when they’re presented with a choice, even if it takes them a while to pick something. Let them have control.

4. Bring a Distraction

It helps to bring something along to distract your child during the appointment as well.

Things like toys and blankets can be excellent tools to keep them occupied and put them at ease while the dentist gets to work.

You might even want to make the distraction a surprise. For example, you could present them with a new stuffed animal to hold as a comfort object.

5. Make the Trip to the Office Fun

If you want your child to feel excited about going to the dentist, start by getting them excited on the car ride over. Play music that they enjoy and talk in a positive tone.

Try to schedule the appointment at a time when you won’t be stuck in traffic or feel stressed out about arriving on time. Kids can pick up on these emotions and it might cause them to feel anxious and stressed out, too.

6. Let Them Dress Up

If you have a child who loves to dress up, give them a chance to wear a favorite outfit or costume to the dentist’s office.

This will help to get them excited about the appointment and minimize their feelings of dental anxiety.

Don’t worry about your child looking silly if they arrive at the dentist’s office in their Halloween costume.

As long as the costume isn’t too bulky and the dentist can access their mouth easily, there’s no reason not to let them dress up.

7. Create a Dental Report Card

For children who are motivated by things like smiley faces and gold stars, a dental report card can be an excellent tool to help them get excited for a trip to the dentist.

Show them the report card before you go and let them know that they’ll be able to earn stickers or gold stars based on their behavior.

You can also use the report card to motivate them to practice good oral hygiene leading up to the dentist appointment.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

These seven strategies are all great tools that can help you make the process of going to the dentist more fun for your child. There are also some things you should avoid doing, though.

Here are some common mistakes that might cause dental anxiety and make your child’s trip to the dentist a less than pleasant experience.

Using Negative Language

Do your best to avoid negative words like “pain” or “hurt” or “shot” as you’re explaining what happens at the dentist’s office. In most cases, these kinds of words will make your child more anxious.

Resorting to Bribery

Avoid bribing your child to go to the dentist, either. This reinforces the idea that a trip to the dentist is something negative that they must endure in order to get a treat.

If you still want to give your child something to create a positive association with the dentist, instead of bribing them before the appointment, you can casually give them a reward after it’s over. 

Making Empty Promises

Try not to make empty promises, either. You can’t guarantee that they won’t feel any pain or discomfort during their appointment, so don’t tell them that’s the case. Being open and honest will ensure that your child trusts you going forward.

Time to Get Your Child Excited About Going to the Dentist

There are lots of different strategies you can use to help your child feel less anxious about going to the dentist.

Give these tips a try to see if they put your child at ease before their next appointment.

If you need to schedule an appointment for your child, we’re here to help at Willow Creek Way. Contact us today to set up an appointment or to learn more about the services we offer.