Dental anxiety is extremely common among children and manifests itself in a variety of symptoms, such as sweating, dizziness, trembling, panic attacks, and even fainting. It’s becoming a serious public health issue because it potentially leads to less frequent dentist visits and could prevent children from receiving the best treatment they need, eventually resulting in poor oral health.
One of the leading causes of this type of anxiety is having a prior negative experience with a dentist, so it’s important to ensure that your child’s first visit goes right. The way you as a parent perceive the dentist also affects their understanding of what to expect when they receive dental treatment at a clinic.
There are plenty of ways to help ease your child into being more comfortable at the dentist’s office. If your child is anxious about paying a visit to the dentist, then here are some steps you can take to help them overcome their fears and anxieties.
Consult with a pediatric dentist
Kids dentists are specially trained to treat developing teeth and support children emotionally during their scheduled visits. They’re more sensitive to children’s needs, and they’ll be able to communicate with your child much better than a general dentist can. Furthermore, they use child-friendly equipment and most of them design their clinic to look more inviting, youthful, and welcoming to put children at ease.
Read children’s books about going to the dentist
Dental storybooks make use of fun characters, vibrant illustrations, and positive and engaging storylines to give children an idea of what to expect when they visit the dentist. Reading these kinds of children’s books is a great way to cultivate a positive outlook of a dentist’s appointment in your kid.
Teach your child how to relax
Breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help children alleviate their body’s anxious and fearful response to visiting the dentist. Simply breathing in and out deeply can already do wonders for their mental health. Make sure to teach them these tricks at home a few days before the scheduled appointment so that they know how to effectively utilize them when they’re sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Start them early
The sooner your child becomes familiar with a dentist’s office, the better. It’s recommended that you visit a dentist within the first few months after their first tooth emerges, and then schedule routine visits from then on to ensure that they remain accustomed to the environment.
Manage their expectations
Children have active imaginations, so if they don’t immediately know what to expect from a dentist visit, they’ll make up their own outrageous conclusions as to what will happen during their appointment. You can help children manage their expectations by providing them with as much information about the visit as possible.
Let them know what they can expect to hear, see, taste, feel, and smell and encourage them to ask either you or their dentist as many questions as they want. Knowing what to expect gives your child a sense of control over their situation and will help allay their fears.
Role-play as a dentist at home
Besides just describing to your children what they can expect at the dentist’s office, you can take it a step further by role-playing as a dentist at home and demonstrating a few basic procedures that might happen during their visit. Make it as fun as possible so that your child can associate positive feelings with the procedure. This will also help them feel more comfortable about having someone examining their mouth.
Be a good example
A parent is a child’s first teacher. They learn about the world by simply watching you go through life. So, you need to make sure that you aren’t transferring any of your own anxieties and fears about visiting the dentist to your own child. Be calm, trust the dentist, and speak positively about the experience while waiting for your child to get treated.
Schedule a visit even when you don’t need to
Bring your child to the dentist’s office even if they don’t need any work done yet. A preliminary visit before the scheduled appointment is a great way to introduce your child to their dentist and help them become familiar with the environment. They can use this visit as an opportunity to ask questions, play with any toys in the waiting room, and learn more about what will happen on the day of their actual visit.
It’s normal for your children to feel scared about going to the dentist, especially if they’ve had a negative experience with them before. These tips will help ease your child’s dental anxiety so that they can maintain good oral health in the long run.