Dental phobia affects around 10% of the population, and many children develop the fear after a bad experience at the dentist's. It's really important to help your child overcome their worries, so that they don't miss out on vital check ups.
There are a few ways to help your child feel more comfortable with the idea of a dental appointments, and the work starts at home. Establishing dentists as a positive thing through play and storytelling can be really helpful, and is particularly effective if your child is just starting to have worries. Once you've set the groundwork, choosing an experienced paediatric dentist will give you the best chance of helping your child to overcome their fear.
Buy them a toy dentist's kit
Buying a toy dentist's kit is a great way to start planting positive ideas about dentists in your child's mind. A kit that comes complete with pretend dental equipment like torches, brushes, and mirrors is great for role playing. You'll be able to show your child exactly what will happen when they go for their first check-up, removing the fear that can come with uncertainty. You should encourage your child to play as both the dentist and the patient, and ask them what they think about the toys. If they bring up any concerns, you'll be able to gently reassure them.
Read stories about dentists
Stories are an essential part of teaching children about the world around them. Buying an age-appropriate book that includes a dentist is an excellent way to gently introduce the idea to your child. You could begin with a book that features a few pages about a dentist, and then move on to one where the whole story is focused on dentistry. Draw your child's attention to positive things about the dentist's, like a free lollipop or sticker at the end of their appointment, or toys to play with in the waiting room. Make sure the story you choose doesn't focus on any procedures that may increase your child's fear, like having teeth removed.
Choose a paediatric dentist
Paediatric dentists have undergone several years' more training than regular dentists, and will be experienced in dealing with children. A dentist with a gentle, friendly manner can make a huge difference to the comfort level of your child. Paediatric dentists will use tools like distraction and humour to make your child feel as relaxed as possible. They'll also understand that your child might be afraid, and won't have a problem with you staying close by to hold their hand and reassure them.