5 tips to prepare children for a dentist visit
For many children, a visit to the dentist can be daunting. However, there are many things parents or carers can do to prepare children so they have a positive experience. Hygienist and Dental Therapist, Julie Petersen, from City Bridge Dental in Winchester, outlines five tips for a calmer visit.
Explain what a dentist is and how they help children
For many children, fear of the unknown contributes much of their anxiety, so try to spend some time talking about the dentist before each visit. This can do wonders for your child’s confidence. Some parents find it helpful to role-play the visit, playing ‘dentist’ with their child using props like toothbrushes or mirrors. Others read them a book (such as ‘Topsy and Tim Go to the Dentist’ or ‘Peppa Pig Dentist Trip’). Once your child knows what to expect, they are much more likely to relax.
Be careful to keep your explanations positive. It’s best to avoid using words like ‘pain’ or ‘hurt’ and leave explaining procedures such as injections, fillings or extractions, to the dentist on the day.
Choose the right dentist
Finding a dentist who knows how to relate to children is essential, so it’s worth taking your time to select the right one. Check dentists’ websites to see what they have put in place to ensure that younger visitors feel comfortable. Many dentists will have a child-friendly waiting area and experts trained in paediatric (children’s) dentistry.
Here at City Bridge, we warmly welcome children of all ages and our friendly team has years of experience working with young patients. Some children will already have heard of the practice, because I regularly speak to pupils at local primary schools about dental hygiene!
Let your dentist know if your child is anxious in advance
Be sure to let your dentist know if your child has any phobias that might interfere with the appointment, such as a fear of loud noises, needles or opening their mouth. A good dentist or hygienist will adapt their approach to help your child feel more comfortable. For example, at City Bridge Dental, we can offer noise-cancelling headphones and play a children’s programme on the TV to help children who dislike loud noises. Our painless dental injection system, ‘The Wand’, is ideal for those with needle phobias.
Bring them in for a pre-surgery visit
If you have a child who is worried by new experiences or who has had bad experiences with dentists in the past, many dentists, including City Bridge, offer a pre-surgery visit. This can provide the reassurance your child needs to attend their appointment confidently. We introduce your child to the environment and tools used at the dentist, they can meet the dentist or hygienist who will be treating them, and even get used to sitting in the chair without any pressure. We will also discuss the treatment we propose in language which your child understands.
On the day, remain calm, confident and supportive but don’t offer rewards
Once everything is prepared, all that is left is to attend the appointment!
During the day, try your best not to anticipate any nervous reactions from your child or communicate your own nerves about the visit. The dentist will explain step by step what is going to happen next throughout the visit, as this will help your child feel safe and in control. We often find that if the parent remains positive and quietly supportive, the child will pick up on your confidence and mirror this.
Although it might be tempting, it is wise to avoid offering your child an incentive. While this might make your child more inclined to ‘behave at the time’, offering a reward sends the unconscious message that a dental appointment is an ordeal to ‘get through’, which might impact negatively on your child’s abiding impression of dental treatment.
If you feel you must offer a reward, we obviously recommend toys or experiences (e.g. a trip to the park) rather than sugary treats!
If you use these tips, there’s no reason why your child won’t have a positive view of dental check-ups in future. Good oral hygiene at home is still the best way to prevent decay, so help them to brush their teeth twice a day after their baby teeth emerge. We can teach children how to brush their teeth effectively, so ask your hygienist for advice if you are in any doubt. And, of course, children should be booked in for a dental check-up every six months to nip issues in the bud before they develop into anything more serious.
City Bridge Dental offers dental services to the whole family and has all the specialisms most people ever need under one roof. Take a look at our website for more details or call us to book a time to meet our patient care coordinator to discuss all your options.