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Once the day of your child’s dentist appointment arrives, there are several things you can do to help make the experience go much more smoothly:

A) Inform the dentist ahead of time about any specific fears your child has. They may be able to work around some of these things or limit the exposure to them so as not to upset your child.

B) Allow your child to bring along a special stuffed animal, blanket, or other security item.

C) Encourage the dentist to talk through the procedure and explain ahead of time what they are going to do, so that a child can brace for what’s to come.

D) Without encouraging it, show compassion for a child’s anxiety. Remember that a child’s ability to tolerate stressful situations is regulated by their mood, so it won’t help your cause to get upset with them or chastise them for being “babyish.” A child’s fears seem very real to them, and your getting upset only further diminishes their ability to tolerate the situation.

E) Try to form a habit of ending all dentist appointments on a high note, such as with a trip to the playground or other special place the child enjoys. Establishing such a ritual gives your child something to look forward to, and also helps them form more positive associations regarding the dentist experience in general.

F) If all else fails, consider a little nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. Anxiety-reducing medication such as Valium may also help, or in the most extreme cases, sedation. But this should be avoided, since kids need to learn to cope with the situation eventually. Knocking them unconscious may be a quick fix, but it won’t help them overcome their fears of the dentist.

G) In extreme situations it may be prudent to take a step-stool approach towards the dentist. Ask to come in for a “look-see” to look around. Come a second time for an exam only, without having any work done. Then, if need be, a third time for the procedure. It may cost a lot more in terms of time and money, but it helps acclimatize a child by also giving them experiences at the dentist which don’t involve pain so they don’t automatically assume the worst every time you go.

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