Take syndicated columnist and author John Rosemond's advice: "Don't worry about it. Let the dentist handle those fears. That's what the dentist is trained to do."
Parents have an important role to play in the process, he adds, by taking a low-key approach to dental visits.
"The more matter-of-factly parents approach a trip to the dentist, the less likely the child will have anxiety and the more likely that the child will cooperate with the dentist," Mr. Rosemond said. "Parents should tell children about the appointment a half-hour before they leave and treat it like it’s a visit to the grocery store. They should inform their children that everyone with good teeth goes to the dentist, and never express any personal anxieties they may have about dental care to the child."
Calling parenting a leadership function, the author of 11 best-selling parenting books calls for moms and dads to visualize visits ahead of time.
"When families go to the dentist, it's important for parents to be supportive of the dentist's handling of the child and trust that the dentist knows what he or she is doing," he said.
Parents are often discouraged from accompanying children into the treatment room. This has a two-fold purpose: to alleviate any anxiety the parent may have about the child's dental visit and enable the parent and dentist to discuss the child’s oral health needs and treatment away from the child.
For parents who accompany their children during treatment, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has the following suggestions:
- Stand or sit in a location where your child knows you are nearby but cannot see your face. It only takes one worried look to inadvertently upset the child.
- Be a silent observer. Let the dentist build rapport and provide positive coaching for your child.
- If he or she needs physical reassurance, you might consider holding your child’s hand or having your toddler sit on your lap.