Is your child scared of the dentist? A fear of dentist visits is quite common for children. In fact, it’s common across all ages. Things like needles, drills or the dental setting in general can trigger feelings of fear and discomfort. Fortunately, there are methods to help prevent or manage dental anxiety or dental phobia and make visiting the dentist an easier, stress-free process for your kids. This ensures you can set your children up for a lifetime of great oral health.
Teach Them Young
One of the best ways of preventing or helping with dental anxiety in children is to bring them in for their first check up at an early age. A child’s first dental visit can be as early as 12 to 24 months. Getting exposed to the dental environment and having their mouth and teeth checked is a big achievement for a young child. Even if the check is only brief, they will remember the experience as being stress-free and it will shape future visits.
If a parent or sibling is attending for a regular check and clean, bring your child along. This is one of the most effective techniques for reducing dental anxiety. Seeing a role model sit through a dental visit will help to alleviate children’s dental anxiety and being there helps to further normalise being in the dental office environment. Avoid bringing children along to appointments where more involved procedures are being completed however, as it might scare them.
Let your child know that they’ll be going to the dentist for a check-up using positive language to avoid framing it as a scary experience. Reading a children’s story book or watching a cartoon about going to the dentist is a great way to introduce the idea when they are younger. Avoid reflecting any personal negative experiences onto your children. Often children will develop dental anxiety because someone else has passed their anxiety onto them.
Sharing your own negative experiences with your child and using scary language such as ‘you’re going to get a needle’ or ‘they’re going to pull your tooth out’ is often distressing to children. Avoid negative connotations and language. Family friendly dentists will always use child-friendly language to explain procedures to your child to prevent them from being scared of the dentist.
Ensure Regular Attendance
Taking your child into the dentist for a regular check and clean every 6 months is a sure way to reduce dental anxiety. With regular attendance, visiting the dentist will soon become part of a normal routine, rather than a rare, frightening experience. If a child only sees the dentist when something is wrong or when they have a toothache, they will always associate the dentist with pain and discomfort.
Tips for Dealing with Dental Anxiety or Dental Phobia
If your child already experiences dental anxiety or fear of the dentist, there are some ways to manage it. Open discussion around the individual triggers can help your dentist tailor a management plan for your child. Some techniques include:
- Deep breathing
- Distraction (such as listening to music or the use of devices)
- Guided imagery
- Using a weighted blanket
- Agreeing on a signal to stop during the treatment for a break (such as raising a finger or hand).
Severe dental phobia may require management with relative analgesia (happy gas), anxiety relieving medication, conscious sedation (twilight sedation) or general anaesthesia.
Book an Appointment for Your Child Today at King Street Dental
Taking your children to the dentist regularly helps create lifelong habits that support great oral health. At King Street Dental our family-friendly dentists can make your child’s dental appointment as comfortable and stress-free as possible.