Many adults in America are afraid to visit the dentist. In fact, millions of Americans forgo the dentist entirely because of their fear. If this many adults are afraid of seeing their dentists, imagine what their kids must feel like. Unfortunately, most children are afraid of seeing the dentist, and will often put up a fight when it’s time for their checkup. However, there are ways you can prepare your child for dentist visits so that they are less painful in the long run.

One of the most important things you can do is to make these visits part of the routine. Children, especially young ones, thrive off of routine and once you get a trip to the dentist as a part of that routine, they will soon grow used to the idea. So, how exactly can you make visiting the dentist part of your child’s routine? Here are some ideas.

Start Early

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that every child see a dentist before their first birthday or when their first tooth erupts. While young children will eventually lose their teeth and receive their adult teeth, the baby teeth are still just as important. Healthy teeth can help a child properly learn how to speak and chew. If allowed to spread unchecked, disease in the baby teeth can lead to serious damage to the adult teeth and overall oral health.

Provide an Example

Children will often look to their parents first for an example of what they should be doing. If you create a positive atmosphere surrounding dental visits, your children will start to take on that same attitude. Show them that you are willing to visit your dentist on a regular basis and that it isn’t something they should fear.

Avoid using scary words like drill, needles, and hurt. These will only upset your child more. Instead, focus the conversation on making the whole visit a positive experience. Take some time to explain to your child the importance of dental health before going to see the dentist.

Find the Right Dentist

Another crucial step to making dental visits part of your child’s routine is to find the right dentist for your child. While you may love the dentist you see, he or she may not be a good fit for your child. In fact, your dentist may not have any experience with children. Spend some time researching kid-friendly dentists in your area. Gather a short list and research the dentists further by calling or visiting their offices. The right dentist will be able to comfort your child at the first visit.

Use Honesty

You never want to trick your children into going to a dental appointment. That will only instill more fear and distrust of the dentist. Always try to be upfront and honest about what is going to happen during the visit. If you lie about one thing, and your child finds out, it can make the whole process a lot more terrifying. If you don’t know the answer to a question, make sure to ask the dentist when you go to the appointment.