Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Managing Kids’ Fear of the Dentist

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published July 6, 2018

Whether your kids have gone to the dentist before or you’re planning their first trip, fears can get the best of them. It’s natural to fear the unknown, and we want to make sure your children are comfortable in our office. Not only does it make their experience better, it also helps the appointment go faster. As the parent, there are a few key things you can do to help ensure your kids are not afraid of the dentist.

Consider A Pediatric Dentist

While your personal dentist may be great for you, they often don’t bring the same experience that a pediatric dentist trained in treating kids, adolescents, and teens does. Managing the fears of young patients is a skill honed over time, through years of training and experience. Doctors Barsetti and Whittemore carry 50+ years of pediatric dentistry experience combined. They are also active members of the American Dental Association (ADA), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Iowa Academy of Pediatric Dentists, and more.

Pediatric dentists complete 4 years of dental school, followed by 2-3 years of training in dental growth and development, interceptive orthodontics (bite issues), hospital dentistry, sedation, child psychology, and behavior management. This extended training and education makes a difference, and is the reason why pediatric dentists are so good at understanding the emotions of kids.

Baby’s First Check-Up

Monitoring your baby’s oral health starts at a young age. Safe, early pediatric oral screenings should start as teeth begin to develop. It’s important to keep up with a regular checkup schedule every 6 months, because children’s oral health can change quickly. Of course, parents can be nervous during those first few appointments, too. That’s why we allow parents hold their little ones during the exam. It’s helpful for both the parents and children!

Work on Your Own Dental Fears

Kids absorb the behaviors patterns of their parents like sponges. If you’re often upset or nervous before going to dental appointments, your kids will pick up on that. Being nervous is okay, though! If you catch yourself speaking of your own fear of the dentist, remind your kids you’re looking forward to making sure your own teeth are clean, healthy, and strong. It will help them follow if they see their parents being brave!

Avoid Certain Words

Unless your little one asks if it will hurt, avoid saying things like, “The dentist won’t hurt you.” While the vast majority of dental appointments are completely routine and totally pain-free, kids will zone right in on the word “hurt.” Word choice is able to create a positive or negative effect depending on how it’s used. Getting them excited for the dentist will help them overcome the fear of going for an appointment.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Harness the power of a reward system if your kids are anxious about the dentist. For instance, if they follow the directions the dentist gives, stay in the exam chair, and remember to ask questions when they’re afraid, maybe they can stop at a bookstore on the way home and pick out a new one or get extra screen time when they’re home. Reward systems are a great way to get a child to respond positively to an event that seems intimidating to them.

Your First Visit to Pediatric Dentistry

From the moment you arrive in our office, you will be greeted by a professional group of people who know how important your kids’ nerves are to their experience. We know how important it is to make kids feel at home. If they have a certain stuffed animal or doll they love, feel free to bring it in with them to calm their nerves. We welcome any questions or concerns, so feel free to contact us today and let us know how we can help make your visit comfortable.

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