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It’s summertime, which means that it’s time to get caught up on all those pesky medical appointments in order to help kids get ready for the school year. Remembering vaccines and physicals is at the top of every parent’s list, but what about taking care of your child’s teeth? If a little one is reluctant to go to the dentist, it can be easy to keep putting it off, but that procrastination may cause more problems in the long run. In fact, it’s estimated that 51 million school hours are lost per year due to dental related concerns, according to a study done by the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. Save yourself the headache and time lost with these tips to ease anxiety about the dentist in children.

Make Sure You Start With the Right Dentist

This may seem like an obvious starting point, but remember that the best dentist for adult mouths might not necessarily have the best temperament to perform dentistry for kids. Some good qualities to look for in a dental pediatrician are a gentle voice, and the ability to explain things to children in a simple way without being patronizing or using overcomplicated or fear-inducing language. Even body language such as an encouraging smile can make a huge difference in how your child perceives their dentist.

Be Careful in Sharing Your Own Experiences

Fear of the dentist visit isn’t strictly a problem in children. Many adults share this same fear, which can make reluctance toward dental work a generational problem. If you’re afraid of the dentist, try to explain the process to them the best you can while avoiding specific descriptions of any bad experience you might have had. Discuss your fears together. It can help to frame the visit as a brave thing that you did despite being afraid, which will make your child more likely to follow in your footsteps.

Make Sure You’re Doing the Work at Home

While helping to develop a positive relationship with the dentist is an important step, it’s equally important to make sure that you’re doing the work at home to get the most out of each visit. Preventative care methods such as regular tooth brushing will not only lessen the likelihood of major dental work such as fillings or extractions, but will also help your child develop a healthy relationship with caring for their teeth. If this is a struggle, let your child know that oral care and dentistry for kids help make healthy, strong adults. If this is something your child already excels at, try framing the dental visit as a chance to brag to the dentist about how well they’ve done brushing and flossing.

Having anxiety about the dentist is a perfectly natural experience. Whether your child’s fear comes from separation anxiety, concern over the strange sights and smells of the office, or even just a fear of the unknown, it’s important to help address those fears and develop a positive relationship with oral care. Not only will it help your child conquer a nagging fear, but it will set them up for a lifetime of caring for their teeth. Arming yourself with the tools and coping strategies specific to dentistry for kids may not turn the experience into one your child looks forward to, but it will help show them there is nothing to fear.

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