We chat to dentist James Malouf from Malouf Dental Tingalpa, about how to overcome kids dental fear.
At some point, most of us are going to end up in a dentist’s chair. For some, that’s no worry at all, but for others it’s a very depressing thought. Being afraid of the dentist is such a common fear, it even has its own name! Odontophobia is a bad enough affliction to suffer from as an adult, but for children it can be downright terrifying.
Odontophobia in Kids and How to Overcome It
Being made to sit in an uncomfortable chair in a bright, sterile room while a stranger in a face mask pokes about in your mouth with all sorts of pointy contraptions is no laughing matter for many kids. The bad news is that dentist visits aren’t going away anytime soon.
As long as humans have teeth, we’re going to have to look after them. The good news is that there is a host of ways you can make a trip to the dentist a whole lot less scary for the young-uns. Here’s how.
1. Start ’em young.
There’s nothing better for preventing the development of a fear of something than getting used to it early in life. Kids should ideally have their first dental checkup before they turn two. By the time they’re four or five they won’t even remember that first visit and it’ll feel like they’ve been visiting their good friend the dentist forever.
2. Choose the right dentist.
Just because you like chatting to your dentist about the weather doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best person to look after your kid’s teeth as well. Choosing one that is careful and experienced in kids dental is essential for picking your child’s dentist. Find a gentle dentist who can take extra care when treating your children’s teeth.
3. Make it a game.
Before a child even has their first dentist appointment, make a game out of it using stuffed toys or your own teeth. Help your kids count their own teeth and turn the whole idea of “going to the dentist” into a game. Kids will often play “doctor” so try getting them playing “dentist” as well to normalise the entire process.
4. Make a connection.
Scheduling your child’s appointments with the same dentist each time is a good way to reduce stress, especially if you’ve found a great paediatric dentist who really has a way with kids. If you child likes their dentist, they could go from fearing the visits to looking forward to them, which would obviously be ideal!
5. Be brave.
If you’re scared of the dentists yourself and you regularly bemoan the fact that you have to go, your own kids will quickly notice your fear and adopt it themselves. Try to stay quiet on the topic so as not to associate the word dentist with pain or fear. In the same vane, no child wants to hear about all the grizzly experiences you’ve had with dentistry. Showing off the scar you got from that botched root canal isn’t going to do anything except make your life a lot more difficult when the time for the next checkup rolls around. So zip it!