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What To Do If Your Child Is Afraid of the Dentist

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Yearly dental appointments are a key factor in good oral health, yet a cross section of Americans tend to avoid them. In fact, more than one in five people surveyed by the ADA in 2014 said they hadn’t visited the dentist “in the past few years.” 

While avoiding the dentist as an adult is a choice (albeit not a great one), most young children have to go whether they want to or not. And if you’re the parent of a child who’s fearful of the dentist, it can make the entire appointment — if not the entire day — a struggle.

Luckily, according to Dr. Adam Silevitch, DMD, an attending pediatric dentist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, there are a few key ways to make a trip to the dentist much easier for both kids and their parents.

Tips for Making Your Child Less Fearful of the Dentist

First and foremost, according to Silevitch, “parents should be aware that their own perceptions about the dentist are observed by their children.” He goes on to say that “if the parent is feeling apprehensive, their child will pick up on that and may themselves feel nervous. Parents should do their best to speak positively about the dentist.”

Are you one of those one in five Americans who avoid checkups? Do the right thing for your kids — and for yourself — and start fostering your own positive relationship with your dentist!

Dr. Silevitch goes on to recommend that prior to the dental visit, parents should role play, show videos, or use another technique they feel will resonate with their child. Make the dentist’s office a fun adventure rather than punishment.

“I also encourage parents to bring younger siblings (who may not be ready for an official appointment) and have them watch their older siblings,” says Silevitch. “Even just exposing the younger child to the office environment and meeting me is super helpful with an impressionable infant or toddler.”

Another way to make dental visits easier on children? Instill the importance of a healthy smile early by helping them brush twice a day, every day, with a fluoride toothpaste that fights cavities, like Aquafresh Bubblemint toothpaste (just make sure to talk to your child’s dentist about the appropriate time to start them on a fluoride toothpaste). After all, the healthier their mouth is when they visit the dentist, the less likely their visit will include things like cavity extraction or fillings. 

Lastly, Silevitch urges parents to find a dentist that their kids actually enjoy seeing. “The definition of a successful dentist appointment is not about bells and whistles but about trust,” Silevitch says. Find yourself a pediatric dentist who believes the same thing, and help to instill lifelong healthy habits in your children!

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