Over one-third of preschool children and one-quarter of school-aged children experience some level of dental anxiety. Is your child part of that statistic?
Fear of the dentist is normal. Children and adults alike struggle with anxiety when they have a dental care appointment coming up. That said, while it’s normal, it can still be a large problem.
If your child is scared of the dentist, you need to help them overcome that fear so they can keep their teeth healthy and strong. We’re here to help.
Read on for a few quick tips that will help you ease your child’s dental anxiety.
Talk to Your Child About Their Feelings
Many people underestimate a child’s ability to convey and explain their feelings. While children aren’t yet able to clearly express themselves, you can still get to the root of their anxieties if you open up a conversation. This is easier if your child is older, but even toddlers can have these conversations.
Let the child tell you how they’re feeling. What emotions come up when they visit the dentist’s office?
Ask them why they’re afraid of the dentist. Some children are afraid of pain, while others are anxious about being in unfamiliar spaces or around unfamiliar people. Some just don’t like seeing all of the complicated and sharp dental tools.
When you get to the root of your child’s anxiety, you can find ways to approach and soothe it.
This is also a good opportunity for you to talk about your own experiences with the dentist. Talk about how the dentist keeps your teeth clean and healthy. You can also talk about an experience that you had with a cavity and how the dentist fixed it and made you feel better.
Keep it simple and positive. You want your child to understand that the family dentist wants to help them.
Show Your Child Books and Shows About the Dentist
If your child is young (preferably in single-digits), shows and books are going to be valuable tools when it comes to helping them overcome their fear of the dentist.
There are plenty of children’s books and shows that feature characters visiting the dentist for routine visits or even cavities. Because children can relate to these characters, they may feel more comfortable when it’s time for their own dentist’s visits.
Let Your Child Know What to Expect
If your child hasn’t visited a dentist in the past, or if they were too young to remember, their fear might be due to how unfamiliar the situation is. Set them up for success by doing a quick run-through. You can even “play dentist!”
Run through the whole experience from the waiting room all the way through the exam. Let them pretend to be the dentist with either you or a stuffed toy as the patient.
For an extra boost, you can get dentist-themed toys. Dentist play kits and dentist dolls make great pre-visit gifts. Giving your child a gift before their dental visit may also make them more willing to visit next time.
Don’t Skip Routine Visits
We understand that you want to protect your child from their fear and anxiety, but skipping dental appointments isn’t the right answer. If you want your child to stop being scared of the dentist, they need to be exposed to dentist’s appointments.
Your child should start visiting the dentist twice per year from the time that they have their first tooth. Routine visits will keep your child’s teeth healthy and let them know that they have nothing to be afraid of.
Let Your Child Bring a Comfort Item
When the day of the dentist’s appointment has arrived, allow your child to pick out a toy to bring with them. Any good children’s dentist will understand that toys can be soothing for children, so there’s nothing embarrassing about it.
Your child may be able to hold the toy while they’re in the dentist’s chair, but if not, be ready to hold onto it. Again, this is another good opportunity for a pre-dentist’s visit gift.
Choose a Pediatric Dentist
If you don’t already have a dentist for your child, pick a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists know all about how to treat children who have dental anxiety.
All dentists can treat children, but pediatric dentists receive extra training that allows them to focus on child-specific issues. Pediatric dentists are also more likely to offer sedation dentistry, even for minor procedures.
While the average adult won’t need sedation for things like fillings, children can benefit from the use of nitrous or even general anesthesia. This will make the experience far less unpleasant for the child, so they won’t have anything to fear.
Let the Dentist Know
If your child is scared of the dentist, their dentist needs to know that. Don’t underestimate how much a good pediatric dentist can do to handle dental fear.
Pediatric dentists know how to talk to and comfort children who are feeling anxious. They can explain everything that they’re doing, step-by-step, in ways that children are able to understand.
They can show children all of the tools, and they may even be willing to pretend to do a dental examination on the child’s toy if it will help the child feel more comfortable.
Mention your child’s dental anxiety when you make the appointment, so the pediatric dentist knows what to expect.
A Fear of the Dentist Is Normal
Don’t worry, your child’s fear of the dentist is nothing to worry about. Dental fear is common amongst children and adults alike. Take these steps to help alleviate your child’s dental fear so they can keep their teeth healthy and strong.
At Children’s Dentistry of Cherry Creek, we treat all of our young patients with expert care. Contact us to set up an appointment for your young one day.