Making a trip to the dentist less scary for your kids is more important than you might think. The attitude your child develops toward dental care now will likely stay with them throughout their lives, so it’s important to make sure they feel comfortable and confident when they visit the dentist.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most prevalent childhood condition. Cavities are also on the rise among toddlers and preschoolers, so you really can’t start developing a positive attitude toward the dentist early enough. Here are four ways to help your kids feel more comfortable about going to the dentist.

Keep Them Involved

One of the biggest causes of fear for children at the dentist is the sheer uncertainty. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine just being placed in a chair and told to open your mouth while someone pokes and prods around with sharp tools. It makes sense they don’t want to go!

A good pediatric dentist will always go above and beyond to keep kids comfortable in the chair, but as a parent, you can go a step further and help your children prepare by letting them know what to expect from each appointment. If they are properly informed before starting the appointment, they could be less resistant to treatment and calmer during any procedure they might need. This will help them build a trusting relationship with their dentist.

Talk About Their Fears Openly

Many parents try to quell their children’s fears by simply dismissing them. Rather than telling your child there’s nothing to worry about, ask them questions. Let them talk about what they’re afraid of and offer explanations and reassurance. You can even share your own experiences about overcoming a fear of the dentist.

Buy a Dentist Buddy

Take your child to the store and explain that you’re going to pick out a new stuffed animal to accompany them on their trips to the dentist. The stuffed animal will give them something physical to hold onto at the office and during procedures. Keeping a special friend with them will help them feel more at home and comfortable in an unfamiliar and potentially scary environment.

Stay with Them

Accompany your child into the exam room during their appointment. Separation anxiety can make the dentist even scarier for some kids, so sometimes, just your presence alone can make all the difference in the world. Be open with your child’s dentist. If you’re there for your child, you can be the one to speak with them about the child’s fears which could ultimately lead to better understanding and a more peaceful appointment for everyone involved.

Taking your child to the dentist is just as important as going to the doctor. You may not be able to completely dispel their fears, but you can certainly make the experience a lot less foreign with good communication and support. Good dental hygiene habits will carry them throughout their lives, reduce the risk of illness and ensure they always have healthy, happy smiles.

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