If your child experiences dental anxiety, this can get in the way of their oral health. As a parent, you may be worried and unsure of how to deal with dentist anxiety in kids. To begin with, you must realize that it’s normal for your child to have dental anxiety. The good news is there are many tips you can apply to help you deal with the problem. Knowing how to deal with dentist anxiety is crucial because it encourages children to develop good oral hygiene habits. Regular visits to the dentist’s office also ensure that potential issues are quickly identified and addressed before they become big problems. Otherwise, a lack of adequate dental care can cause long-term issues that are costly to fix. Read on to find out more about how to deal with dentist anxiety in kids.
Understand What Causes the Anxiety
Before you figure out how to deal with dentist anxiety, you must first understand what it is and the root problem. Generally, dental anxiety is defined as fear or stress related to dental visits. Sometimes dentist anxiety can be so severe that your child gets stressed just thinking about visiting the dentist. This negative mental association is what triggers the reluctance to visit the dentist. Your child will not want to discuss visiting the dentist or going for checkup appointments. However, dental care can’t be postponed if you want to prevent problems that require extensive treatment down the line. To help your child develop the right coping mechanisms, it helps to pinpoint what exactly they’re afraid of.
Sometimes, there’s a specific reason why your child may be experiencing dentist anxiety. For instance, your child might not want to sit in the dentist’s chair because they have to open their mouths, which obstructs their breathing. Is your child prone to breathing through their mouth? They might start associating going to the dentist with difficulty breathing. Most of the time, children and even adults are anxious about going to the dentist because they are afraid it will be a painful experience. Maybe they had a previous bad experience, or they heard about someone who had a bad experience. The truth is that dental procedures can be uncomfortable if the dentist isn’t gentle enough or doesn’t medicate properly. Such an experience can cause anxiety even if the child is simply going for a routine examination.
There are many other reasons why your child might have dental anxiety. The dentist’s office and interior design might not be comfortable enough, or the staff might seem intimidating. Your child might feel powerless being asked to open their mouth and let someone poke around in there without seeing what’s going on. You should also keep in mind that sometimes there’s no explanation for why your child might have dental anxiety. The anxiety might stem from anything, such as not knowing what to expect or sensory issues.
Start Visiting the Dentist As Soon As Possible
As a responsible parent, there are many things you can do to ensure your child is protected and growing in a healthy environment. For instance, things like getting CPR certification, learning basic first aid skills, and being able to make healthy meals can prove beneficial for your children in the long run. Another thing that can benefit your child is being proactive about oral health. That means taking your child for regular dental visits as early as possible. This can be one way to deal with dentist anxiety. It can be good to address dentist anxiety early on because sometimes the issue can worsen over time. For instance, if your child is afraid to visit the dentist because it’s painful, they may develop tooth cavities. Tooth cavities can cause pain and discomfort, even more so if the tooth needs to be extracted.
Thus, dental anxiety can result in the absence of dental care if your child manages to have their way. The absence of dental care then triggers serious problems that cause more pain when they finally go to the dentist. This only strengthens the child’s negative association with such visits, making it harder to deal with the problem. Although it’s not always possible to entirely prevent dentist anxiety, helping your child overcome it from a young age can make a huge difference. That’s because the more you take your child to the dentist, the more they acclimatize to the idea. Your child is less likely to feel anxious if they are familiar with the idea of going to the dentist. On the other hand, your child may be reluctant to cooperate if you introduce them to the idea when they’re already set in their ways.
Keep in mind that fear can be triggered by not knowing what to expect. While you don’t need to go visit the dentist every other week, you should do it enough times for the environment and the process to become familiar. Children often find a sense of security and comfort when they are in an environment or situation they recognize. According to the American Dental Association, it’s recommended that you start dental visits with your child by their first birthday or once their teeth start coming in.
Familiarize Your Child At Home
If you want to know how to deal with dentist anxiety in kids, you should extend the concept of familiarization to your home. That means, besides taking your child for regular dental visits at a young age, you should also find ways to get them used to the idea at home. You can start by taking a general approach where you teach your child about the different types of doctors, such as dentists, veterinarians, surgeons, and family practitioners. Teach them what each doctor does, and be sure to use positive language when describing what dentists do. You can also read dental storybooks to your kids. Since dental anxiety is common in children, you should be able to find great dental storybooks that can shine a more positive light on dental experiences in your child’s mind.
Another way to make going to the dentist seem like an ordinary activity is to enact a play. Children love being asked to play a role, and they might have more fun if you play along. So, before going to the dentist, you can act out a small play about what’s going to happen once you get there. You can pretend to be the dentist who’s performing an examination or procedure. You can also switch roles so that your child gets to experience things from the point of view of the dentist. Where possible, purchase a dental kit for them so they can practice with toys on their own.
Besides doing this, simply talking to your child can prove effective. Let them know ahead of time that you’ve set up an appointment, so they have enough time to get used to the idea. Otherwise, taking your child to the dentist at the last minute might seem like such an abrupt change, and children don’t do so well with abrupt changes. Once you communicate about a specific appointment, give your child periodic reminders, so the idea stays familiar in their mind.
Choose the Right Dentist
Choosing the right dentist is crucial if you need help figuring out how to deal with dentist anxiety. That’s because addressing dental anxiety requires teamwork with your dentist, so you need someone who works well with children. Obviously, there are many factors to consider when looking for a dentist, such as whether they’re compatible with your insurance service and if they provide payment plans. However, one of the most important factors to consider is whether your child is comfortable with a particular dentist. Is the office conducive to relaxation, or is it too noisy with distracting colors and patterns? These are some of the considerations to make when you have a child with sensory issues.
Even if the dentist claims they are good with children and know how to deal with dentist anxiety, they must pass the test by having a positive impact on your child. Hence, when choosing the right pediatric dentist, always do your due diligence. You can start by talking to other parents about whether they can recommend a pediatric dentist that offers dental anxiety treatment options. Get more details about the experience they had with the dentist. You can also use the internet to streamline your search. These days, many dentists are making use of marketing agency services and using digital marketing to establish an online presence. Online searches have become the most popular way of locating professional services, whether you’re looking for dentists, doctors, or personal injury lawyers.
When searching online, you can check reviews and ratings to determine whether a particular pediatric dentist has a good track record. You can also visit websites to get the address and contact details if you’re interested in setting up an appointment. But before you schedule the consultation, make sure they are board certified and have the right credentials. It’s also better if they have plenty of experience, so check how long their practice has been open. When you visit the office, assess the environment to see if it’s right for them to ensure you’re making a wise and informed decision.
Lead By Example
Children learn by watching what you do, not just listening to what you say. That means you should also lead by example if you want your child to feel like there’s nothing to be afraid of when going to the dentist. For example, how regularly do you go visit the dentist? The recommended amount is at least twice a year, but if you have issues that need to be addressed in-between, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. Make a habit of informing your child every time you go to the dentist and inform them of the benefits of doing so. Have them accompany you where possible so they can familiarize themselves more with the idea.
Knowing how to deal with dentist anxiety also means taking the time to teach your child about the importance of oral hygiene. Besides visiting the dentist on a regular basis, teach your child that healthy, strong teeth come from brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing regularly. Remind them that these things result in a beautiful and healthy smile and that dentists are good doctors that help us take care of our teeth. Try to be enthusiastic whenever you’re talking about visiting the dentist or anything related to oral hygiene. Sometimes, it’s easy for children to develop dental anxiety as a result of their parents. They may hear their parents talking negatively about their dental experiences, and thus their fears develop. Fortunately, your excitement and enthusiasm can be equally catching, so try and set a good example at all times.
Here’s a bonus tip as part of emphasizing good oral hygiene at home: If you have hard water in your home, it’s good to shop for water softeners and make the investment because hard water can cause staining.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
When it comes to knowing how to deal with dentist anxiety, sometimes it may feel like nothing you’re doing is working. In that case, options like conscious sedation, anesthetics, and therapy can help. Cognitive therapy involves positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, and exposure-response evaluation that can help your child feel more comfortable with dental visits. There are also different types of sedation, such as oral conscious sedation, nitrous oxide, and general anesthesia, that can help ensure your child receives the dental care they need.
As a parent, we applaud you for your effort to learn more about how to deal with dentist anxiety so you can help your child. If your child doesn’t exactly look forward to visiting the dentist, you can apply these tips to ensure that future regular dental checkups proceed as smoothly as possible. This is a much better option than not taking your child to the dentist because you’re worried they might freak out. Fortunately, there are always last resort options like conscious sedation, but as long as you try to give your child the most comfortable experience, you’re on the right track.