We all have fears, but some fears are more common than others. If your children are afraid of the dentist, they’re not alone. Studies show that 40% of Canadians have dental anxiety. As adults we know that even if we’re nervous, we have to face our fears for our health. But when your child is anxious and afraid in the dentist’s chair, it can be hard to try and alleviate their fears.
Avoiding dental appointments isn’t the answer. An initial positive experience and regular dental visits help ensure that oral health issues are kept under control. Establishing a routine also helps your child deal with uncomfortable situations that could lead to anxiety about visiting the dentist.
But if your child already has dental anxiety, you may need to first overcome that obstacle. Here are some tips for easing your child’s dental fears:
Talk About It
If your child hasn’t been to the dentist before and is nervous about his/her appointment, talk to them about the dentist to ease their fears. Have a “practice appointment” and play pretend to show them what the dental appointment will be like. Be mindful of the words you use; avoid using words that are negative to describe the appointment so that you don’t amplify their fears.
Sometimes children get nervous at the dentist because they’re with new people in a new environment. Sit in with your child during his appointment to help comfort him/her and make them feel safe. Your child can even bring a favourite toy to accompany her during the visit.
Choose a Pediatric Dentist
Choosing a pediatric dentist for your child can also help with your child’s dental anxiety. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with children, so they understand that children can get afraid in the dentist chair. Plus, they have the resources and knowledge to help your child through the process.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, parents should book their child’s first dental appointment 6 months after their first tooth erupts or by his or her first birthday.Bringing your child into the dentist early can help ease their fears and even stop them from developing.
Create a Routine
You and your child should visit the dentist for a check-up every 6 months. If your child visits the dentist regularly, it can also help ease their fears. If it becomes a normal routine, your child has less reason to be afraid because they’ll start to understand what going to the dentist is like and why it’s important. The idea behind this theory is that once something becomes commonplace, it’s less frightening.
Teaching your child proper dental care and making it a habit can also help make the dentist less frightening. Understanding what a dentist does by learning about oral health can help ease your children’s fears about visiting the dentist.
Explore Sedation Options
If your child’s anxiety is severe, you can ask your dentist about sedation options for children. Sedation dentistry helps your child relax in the dentist’s chair through a variety of techniques from laughing gas to medication to general anesthesia. The type of sedation used depends on the needs of your child and the dental procedure being done.
Featured image source: Woodcock Psychology