“Your child is going to need a filling.” As a parent, these are not the words you want to hear from your pediatric dentist after a routine visit. Of course, you know cavities are always a possibility (there’s so much sugar in everything these days), which is why you visit the dentist regularly.
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The procedure is routine, simple, maybe uncomfortable but not painful, and can be done in a matter of minutes.
But try explaining that to your child.
As you head out of the office, wondering how you’ll broach the subject, consider these strategies to prepare for the first filling.
Yes, the single most important thing you can do as a parent talking to your child about getting a filling is stay calm, especially if you have your own dental anxieties. Children will pick up on your feelings, no matter how deep you bury them, so it’s time to get comfortable with the idea.
If you can’t do it, let your partner do the talking or bring in a friend who enjoys visits to the dentist to create the right ambiance for the conversation.
Talk Openly and Honestly
When you explain to your child that a filling is needed, he or she is going to have questions. Don’t be afraid to answer them openly and honestly. Knowing what to expect is half the battle and where most of the fear comes from.
Let your child lead the conversation with questions. This way, you can find out what might make your child uncomfortable, and deal with those areas. For example, if your child asks if there will be pain, you can talk about how the dentist will do things to make sure there isn’t.
Use Appropriate Language
As much as you want to be open and honest with your child, choosing to use age-appropriate language will go a long way to having a positive experience. You probably don’t want to go into graphic detail about the drilling and filling process; in fact, don’t use the word “drilling” at all.
Change the language to something like, “Washing away the sugar bugs,” and your child will be less likely to lose his or her cool over the process. It’s not about lying, of course, but presenting the procedure in a comfortable way.
Share Your Experiences
Odds are you’ve also had a cavity filled at some point. Share this experience with your child. Ideally, you want to make the whole procedure seem like no big deal, while also creating enough space for your child to think about, ask questions, and feel comfortable with it.
Let your kid know fillings are a good thing—they protect our teeth—and that the procedure is pretty common and the dentist knows how to do it quickly and easily.
Keep Them Comfortable
Some kids might still feel uncomfortable. On the day of the procedure, help your child select a comfort animal to take along. You can even practice filling a cavity by using the same stuffed animal as the patient and letting your child be the dentist. This is a great way to prepare them for the procedure.
These are just some examples of how to talk with your child about his or her first cavity filling. You know your child best and which strategies are going to work best. Don’t be afraid to discuss the conversation with your dentist and get some experienced, first-hand suggestions as well.