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Child Dental Anxiety: Making the Dentist Fun for Kids

A lot of people report that they find going to the dentist to be an anxious experience. Many of us feel that anxiety before we even schedule the appointment, and that can be a big problem. When you’re too anxious to make an appointment, it’s pretty hard to go in for your Tulsa teeth cleaning. While adults often experience some degree of anxiety over going to the dentist, for children it can be a far scarier proposition. We, as adults, have lots of experience dealing with and confronting our anxieties so that we can get things done, like paying our bills and scheduling a Tulsa teeth cleaning. Our children, though, haven’t yet mastered the skills for this—that’s why they’re children. So, for all the parent’s out there, here are some ideas you can try with your kids to make dentist appointments a less daunting experience for them.

Tips and Tricks

The first, and most important, thing to do is to make sure that you yourself are calm and at ease when discussing the dentist with your children. Studies have consistently shown that children pick up on, and mimic, the feelings of fear and anxiety that their caregivers display. The little ones might not know why we’re scared or anxious, but they can read in our voices and body language that we are, and that makes them feel scared and anxious right along with us. Once you’ve got yourself into a relaxed frame of mind and feel like you can convey that going to the dentist is just another mundane facet of life—like sleeping or bathing—then you can trust that your child will see that there is nothing to fear.

Of course, just because they’re no longer afraid doesn’t mean they’ll calmly agree that seeing the dentist is something that they want to do, or even should do. Now, you can always pull the parent card and put your proverbial foot down, but there are other ways to get your child on board with going to the dentist. While alternatives to the direct use of authority can sometimes take more work on the adult’s part, they often show higher rates of long-term success. Not only that, but trying some these might leave you with less of a headache, and less tension between yourself and your kid.

Try Making a Game of it

Parents know that children can make a game of almost anything, especially with an adult encouraging them and leading the way. Each child is different, but some things transcend boundaries. Play is one of them. If you can make the idea of going to the dentist playful, then your kid might begin to look forward to their Tulsa teeth cleaning. If your kids like competition, then challenge yourself and let them compare what the dentist has to say about your success at oral hygiene care with that of your child’s. This can be great, since kids like to win, and its nearly a guarantee that they’re younger teeth are going to be in better condition than your own.

Make a Reward System

Over and over, specialists in child development and behavior have shown that positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful learning tools available to us. If you want your children to act a certain way, then reward them for that behavior. The important thing when using a reward system is not to frame anything as punishment and to always reward the behavior that you want to encourage. So, to avoid framing things as punishment: you might have a system where you reward your child for how compliant they are about going to their appointment. Where being easy and not throwing a fit earns them the most rewards (candy, toys, tv or game time, etc.). In this situation, that child is going to get a smaller reward if they act out and refuse to be compliant about their Tulsa teeth cleaning appointment. As long as they actually end up at the appointment, though, it’s important that you still provide them with some level of reward. This serves a couple of purposes. One, it reiterates that going to the dentist is a rewarded experience, and two, it reminds them what they’re missing out on by highlighting how better behavior would have led to greater rewards. The second point hinges on the reward system having a tiered structure, where the more the child’s behavior fits with what you want, the more they get rewarded.

All that’s left is to talk to your child, come up with a system, and schedule that Tulsa teeth cleaning appointment!