Studies show that as much as 24% of the world population experiences dental anxiety or
dentophobia. Children are no different. Dental anxiety can affect people of all ages.
If you have an appointment coming up and your child is worried, there is something you can do. We have compiled a few techniques that you can use to help kids face their fears head-on. Keep reading to learn how you can tackle dental anxiety in kids.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety in children occurs when a child has a fearful response to going to the dentist. A child’s body has an anxious reaction because it perceives the dentist as dangerous, though it isn’t. Dental anxiety is a normal feeling for children to have.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
It is not always obvious what the cause of your child’s dental anxiety may be. Many times, the fear is because the child is not familiar with the dental office or staff. Other causes may be the noises and the dental tools being used.
Dealing with Dental Anxiety
Parents and dental professionals can work together to make the dental experience a pleasant one for kids. We’ve come up with some options to try before your child’s next dentist appointment.
Make Regular Dental Appointments
Children who have dental anxiety should make regular visits to the dentist. Every 6 months, your child should have a dental checkup. The more often they go to the dentist, the more familiar they will become with the environment.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should visit the dentist after their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday. Doing this allows children to understand that dental visits are a normal part of life. It helps children feel less anxious about attending dental checkups and appointments.
Take a Dental Office Tour
If you have an older child who has not been to the dentist yet, a visit to the dental office may ease their anxieties. It allows children to become familiar with the office and staff before a dental
appointment. They can explore the office without the worry of having any dental work done.
You can also bring your child along to your dentist appointments. Show them that the dentist is no big deal and it’s good to practice good oral hygiene. Only do this if you do not have dental anxiety as that can have a negative effect on your child.
Choose the Right Dentist
You should find a dentist for your child that works well with children. A dentist who understands children’s behavior is key to a good experience. Your child should feel comfortable and relaxed at
their dentist’s office.
It also helps if the dental office is set up with children in mind. Are there plenty of distractions for them to use and fun things to look at? Often, dental offices will have prizes for children when they finish their visit!
Give Kids a Heads Up
Give your child some notice before heading to the dentist for an appointment. They may feel anxious about it because they do not know what to expect. Walk them through how the appointment will work and what they can expect from the dentist and staff.
Don’t be tempted to keep the appointment a secret from your child. Ease your child into the idea of going to the dentist and give them a chance to process their feelings about it. Let your child ask
questions and even practice at home before heading into the dental office.
Use Kid-Friendly Vocabulary
When discussing what happens at the dentist, remember to keep it age appropriate. You want your child to understand what will happen at the dentist’s office but avoid too many details. You don’t want to overwhelm your child with thoughts of what the dentist will do.
For example, if they have a cavity, don’t tell them that the dentist will be drilling into their tooth. Details like that can be scary to a child. If you are unsure of the language to use around dental work, ask your child’s dentist for ideas.
Start at Home
Children who have dental anxiety have often already had a procedure done at the dentist. It may have caused them to associate the dentist with being uncomfortable and scared. Preventing the
need for dental procedures at a young age can help ease dental anxiety in children.
Practice good oral hygiene at home with your children. Teach them the importance of brushing twice a day and flossing once. Explain why eating low-sugar foods and drinks is important for good teeth and gum health.
Parents should oversee brushing until around the ages of 6-8. You should be there to make sure your child is brushing well and getting all their mouth. Songs and videos can be a fun way to help
teach kids how to brush the right way.
Make Dentist Day a Fun Day!
Explain to your child what will happen at the dentist and what they can expect afterward. Plan a fun outing for your child after scheduling dental checkups. It will give them a positive thing to associate with dental visit day.
Doing this can help your child overcome fear and be brave at the dentist. When they know they have something to look forward to afterward, they are more likely to get through the visit with fewer problems. Having a prize or treat ready after the dentist will keep them motivated!
Older children might enjoy choosing an activity after their dental visit. They may want to do something with a parent or with their friends. Either way, make it an enjoyable experience for them to
look forward to.
Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Keep You from the Dentist
Dental anxiety can affect people of all ages. Children feel big emotions around dentist appointments. These anxieties and fears need to be addressed.
Don’t avoid dental visits to combat dental anxiety. We can help you and your child have a positive dental experience with us.
Contact us today to schedule your child’s dental checkup. We look forward to meeting you and your child soon!