Going to the dentist for regular check-ups is essential for anyone who wants to maintain good dental health. It is particularly important for children. Without these check-ups, your child may be at greater risk of cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.

However, many children are afraid of the dentist; this fear can make trips to the dental clinic extremely challenging for both the parent and the child, so much so that the child may not end up going as often as they should. If your son or daughter has developed a fear of the dentist, here are two things you can do to help them.

Create positive associations

Children who suffer from dental anxiety usually have a lot of negative feelings regarding their visits to the family dentist. They may associate them with discomfort (if they have had to undergo a painful dental treatment, like a root canal) and uncertainty (if they didn't fully understand why the dental procedure was being carried out).

As such, it's important to take steps to replace these negative associations with positive ones. There are a number of ways to go about doing this. Firstly, try to ensure that the journey to the dentist is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. You might want to play some music that they like or, if you have an e-tablet, play one of their favourite cartoon shows on it during the drive.

Secondly, bring along some of their favourite creature comforts, which they can keep beside them during the dental appointment. Being able to hold a familiar and comforting object, such as a cuddly toy or their favourite blanket, can make a check-up far less stressful.

It may also be helpful to provide them with a reward if they remain calm throughout their appointment. Things such as stickers, a small toy or perhaps an experiential treat, like a trip to the playground, can all serve as an incentive and help your child to begin to associate positive feelings with their trips to the dentist.

Provide words of reassurance and distraction

Your presence in the treatment room can make all the difference to your child's level of anxiety whilst they're at the dentist. The simple act of engaging your child in conversation (whilst using a soft, reassuring tone of voice) may be enough to keep them calm whilst the dentist performs the check-up. Your words can also serve as an effective distraction, which helps to move your child's focus away from any discomfort they might be experiencing and onto a happier topic.

It is also important for your dentist to be aware of your child's anxiety and to assist you with keeping them calm. Most family dentists are familiar with this issue and will be happy to do their part in easing any fears your son or daughter may have. They can, for example, provide them with a simple explanation of the procedure before they perform it, and make an effort to use kind, friendly language throughout the treatment process.