How to Deal with Dental Anxiety in Children: Complete Guide
Going to the dentist is crucial for avoiding the pain, embarrassment, and financial consequences of poor dental care, and it starts during childhood.
However, we all know the stereotype that kids loathe going to the dentist. Many adults don’t even like it. Dental anxiety in children is real. It’s scary, uncomfortable, and any other number of negative adjectives you can think of.
There’s actually a good explanation for that, and there are ways to get around it.
Today, we’re going to coach you about dental anxiety in children to ensure they have a healthy smile and build good dental care habits into adulthood stress-free.
Let’s get to it!
What is Dental Anxiety?
There is a proper term for fearing the dentist’s office or simply not being comfortable with it. It’s called “dental anxiety”.
Dental anxiety is when a child gets nervous or fearful when it’s time to head to the dentist’s office or another oral care facility.
This happens for a number of reasons.
First, there’s always the chance that your child had a negative experience with a dentist. While the members of our field care about our patients deeply, there are always a few bad apples in every group who might not have put comfort first.
It’s not always caused by that, though. The most common cause of dental anxiety is how awkward and foreign the experience is.
The dental office is pretty much the only place where strange people poke around in your mouth with pointy objects, grind away at teeth, give you shots in your gums, and make you put your mouth on all sorts of strange machines.
Those things are harmless and necessary, but we’ll admit they are a bit scary if you’re not used to them.
As such, kids go one time, deal with all that strange, uncomfortable stimuli, and associate the dentist’s office with negative feelings.
The first thing you want to do is invest in a fun, high-quality toothbrush.
How Do You Resolve Dental Anxiety?
No one wants to put their child through something they don’t enjoy. Unfortunately, skipping the dentist’s office is a huge mistake with lifelong consequences.
So, it’s best to overcome dental anxiety and build a positive relationship with the dentist’s office.
Here are some tips and tricks to achieve that for your child.
1: Get a Good Pediatric Dentist
This cannot be stressed enough. The dentist’s office is already in a strange environment.
Suppose the staff and care providers working with your child aren’t creating a child-friendly environment that makes them comfortable. In that case, the dentist’s office can start to be associated with negative feelings.
To avoid that, you want to put time and energy into researching pediatric dentist offices you might take your child to. Get a dentist with a great reputation, and make sure they specialize in pediatric care.
This is the foundation for a positive relationship between your child and the dentist’s office.
We don’t just provide premium pediatric dentistry services. We also put in the extra effort to help children overcome dental anxiety and look forward to seeing us.
2: Provide Comfort Items
Every pediatric dental office worth going to is going to have distractions available to keep your child occupied during their wait, but what happens when they go to the exam room for care?
They can’t take the waiting room toys with them. Also, they don’t have emotional attachments to those toys.
Make sure you provide your child with their favorite reasonable comfort item. A teddy bear, action figure, or whatever it is that makes them feel secure.
This small item can stay with them in most circumstances, and it will go a long way toward comforting them in a strange environment.
3: Go to Regular Checkups
One of the worst things you can do is only go to the dentist when something serious occurs. Dental anxiety in children often stems from associating visits solely with unpleasant procedures.
If you do that, all the child’s dentist experiences are going to involve drilling, x-rays, and a lot of discomfort.
Regular checkups don’t just prevent those major issues from happening, but they also help your child get used to the dentist without it being such an intense experience.
If they’ve gone 20 times just for a tooth cleaning and exam, it’s a lot easier to handle that one time when they need a tooth pulled or capped.
4: Prep Your Child Before Each Visit
It’s always good to sit down and talk to your child before it’s time to go to the dentist. Explain to them what is going to happen, what it’s going to be like, and that it’s going to be a good experience.
Think about how you probably handle job interviews. You’re probably nervous, and you have to sit in front of a mirror and walk yourself through your answers to all the interviewer’s questions, imagining everything that can happen. You probably don’t relax until somebody tells you it’s going to be just fine.
Your child is going through the same thing, and a brief chat goes a long way toward helping with anxiety.
5: Make it a Fun Day
It defeats the purpose of going to the dentist if you immediately turn around and hand your kid a bunch of candy as a reward, but other rewards can go a long way toward positive reinforcement.
Consider making plans to do something fun after the dentist visit or get lunch somewhere special that is usually considered a treat meal.
Just make sure you don’t do anything that is going to damage the work that was just done, and if anything was done that might leave your child’s teeth a bit sensitive for a while, try to stay away from food-based rewards until the sensitivity goes away.
Help Your Child Overcome Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety in children is extremely common, and here at Dino Kids Dental, we understand that perfectly.
However, we believe going to the dentist should be a positive experience.
Try these tips, and of course, contact us today if you need kid-friendly dental care in one of the locations we serve in.