Picture this image in your head. You tell your child it’s time to go to the dentist, only for your child’s fear of dentists to bring on instant screaming and crying to make what should be a typical parental errand miserable. Maybe you decide to be shrewd and not tell them where they are going until you get to the office, only serving to start the same issues up again when they put two and two together. Dental anxiety is more than a staple of many childhoods, it can be a real impediment to getting them to take active care of their teeth.
For one thing, it’s important to remember that when it comes to dentists, chances are your child isn’t the only person they’ve had to According to JavodGol, DDS, head of Precision Dentistry in Columbia, MD, “we appreciate that some patients may feel fear or apprehension about going to a dentist, but we assure you that we’ll do everything possible to make your experience with us pleasant and enjoyable. We take the time to communicate with you about what to expect during the treatment. This includes having all the latest dental equipment and mod cons.
You are welcome to bring your favorite music and headphones so you can listen to music during the treatment if that helps you to relax. We also have dental sedation options available.” For adults, it’s a little easier to try and understand the benefits of a dentist visit versus your own anxiety. But how do you get a child to understand the same point?
Start Early With Good Practices
For one thing, if your child is still very young or you’re expecting, it pays to start as early as possible. Some parents don’t take their child to the dentist right away due to accessibility issues, or perhaps feeling uncomfortable in the setting themselves. This is a mistake. According to Rhea Haugseth, D.M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you want to have your first visit as early as age 1, or when the first tooth is visible. ““This will provide your child with a ‘dental home’ where all her needs — whether a periodic preventive visit or an emergency — will be taken care of,” she explains. As an added bonus, if there are any potential issues, it’s always best to be able to tackle them early.
Keep A Lid On Your Own Fears
If you have any apprehensions of your own about dentists, it’s best to keep them to yourself. Ideally, creating a positive image of the dentist and the experience as early as possible will help make the process easier, and also make them more likely to want to take an active role in brushing their teeth regularly. Focus on the positive side of things as much as possible, taking special care not to mention anything that may relate to pain. Use positive language when discussing the dentist. Avoid words like “pain” or “hurt.” Focus on how the dentist helps keep their smile healthy and beautiful.
Earlier, we mentioned how Dr. Gol said that many adults with anxiety may bring along their favorite music to the dentist to help them relax. This may not work exactly the same way for children, but having some sort of distraction may not be a bad idea if they are already afraid of the dentist and need to relax.
Now, these are all useful, but what happens if your child is so afraid to go to the dentist that it may impede the dentist from doing their job, or even getting them to the office at all? In some extreme cases, you may even need to consider sedation dentistry. Basically, this is defined as using medication to help patients relax during dental procedures, in varying degrees. There are also different types, from breathing laughing gas through your nose your using a pill or IV.
There’s no single best way to do this, as every child is different, and everyone is going to react differently to some of the different techniques that we discussed. According to a dentist in Peterborough we spoke to, the most important thing to do is make sure that you avoid some of the bad habits parents may get into just to stop the frustration at their child’s fear of dentists. One such example is trying to bribe a child to behave at the dentist. For one, if they are able to stop for a bribe, they may just not like the dentist rather than have true anxiety. In addition, creating a culture where you need to give things to get what you want may make it difficult to encourage your child for other things down the line.
When it comes to alleviating a child’s fear of dentists, a little creativity can go a long way. Start by introducing them to the dental world early on, using imaginative play at home to simulate checkups and counting teeth. Opt for a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating children, and schedule a non-treatment visit for your child to meet the dentist and explore the office. Use positive language and share stories about friendly dental visits to normalize the experience.
Many dental offices offer virtual tours on their websites. Show your child these videos to help them become familiar with the setting. Encourage your child to ask questions and express their concerns. Knowing they have a voice can empower them and ease anxiety.
Finally, remember to praise their bravery, communicate openly, and offer incentives as positive reinforcement. With these creative approaches, you can help your child conquer their fear of dentists and pave the way for a more positive and stress-free dental journey.
Are you looking for ways to deal with your child’s fear of dentists? What do you think about the advice offered about? Do leave a comment and share. And if you found this post useful why not check out this one on how to make brushing teeth fun for children.