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Local experts share ways you can help your child face their fears and tame their anxiety about visiting the dentist, plus how to help a dental visit go smoothly for a child with special needs.
So many kids are afraid of going to the dentist for the first time. “We work in an anxiety-provoking setting,” observes Jennifer Epstein, D.M.D., of Kids First Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics in Fairfield, CT. To help kids deal, communicate proactively with your child’s dentist. “We want a heads-up about your child’s sensitivities,” Dr. Epstein says. “It could be sounds, smells, visuals, or maybe they can’t stay in the room. The position [for an exam] can be anything. I’ve done exams standing, sitting in my chair, laying down in the chair—almost every way you can think of. We do a lot of lap exams. I also need to know what I can do within the limits of what the parents are comfortable with. We also employ ‘tell, show, do,’ in which we tell the child what we are going to do, show them on Mom or Dad’s finger or in Mom or Dad’s mouth, and then do it on the child.”
Familiarity also breeds comfort, so modeling is an often-recommended technique. “You can bring your child to one of your visits or an older sibling’s appointment. That way your younger child can see what happens during a cleaning before they go to their own appointment,” suggests Erica Fish, D.D.S., of M.E. Smiles Dental PC, which has locations in Hartsdale and White Plains.
Pediatric dentists are a wonderful option for all kids, but especially for timid or fearful ones, because of the nurturing environment and experience dealing with childhood anxieties. “We have extremely child-friendly offices, and we have more patience in demonstrating tools and procedures before we do them,” Dr. Fish says.
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