Tips for Dealing with Dental Anxiety
Is your child anxious about their first or next dentist visit? Anxiety for new experiences is normal, especially for children. Here are some tips we have to help allay their fears and help get them on the path to developing a healthy (and happy) relationship with dental hygiene.
- Regular Visits: Hold on, don’t roll your eyes yet. There are many benefits to making sure that your child follows a regular dental check-up schedule. First and foremost, this is the best way to ensure your child’s dental health. Secondly, regular exposure, especially at a pediatric dentist, will acclimate your child to the dental office environment in a comfortable way. Lastly, as children grow up used to following a regular dental check-up schedule, the habit is more likely to carry over into their adult life.
- Start Simple: Studies show that adults can transfer anxiety about the dentist and other similar types of institutions without even realizing it. For your child’s early dental visits, answer their questions, but try to keep it simple. Sometimes, the anxiety that children feel can build when having too many things to think about, or they sense that dental hygiene is something their parents aren’t comfortable with. Here at The Kids’ Dentist, our entire office atmosphere has been devoted to helping children feel at ease. Our staff will work with you to nurture a happy association with dental hygiene in your child.
- Focus on Health:Focusing on the positive benefits of good dental hygiene can make the less pleasant aspects of dental treatments seem less important. Everyone experiences some level of discomfort at the dentist, whether they don’t like sitting still, or the taste of florides. However, reducing the significance of this discomfort can help everyone have a better time at the dentist— even adults. Using phrases like “strong teeth” and “healthy gums” can go a long way in reducing the impact of “bad tastes”, “shots”, or other discomforts that a child may be sensitive to.
- Don’t Bribe or Bargain:Anxiety for new experiences is normal. This is especially true for first dental visits. Unfortunately, in some circles, dental visits have developed a bad rap and it’s often the case that children get exposed to some negative commentary. Realistically, there isn’t a way to eliminate all anxiety. However, it is also important not to use techniques like bribery or bargaining. The act of offering children a reward for not crying or fussing can be detrimental for a number of reasons. One thing it can do is trigger the fear it was supposed to remedy. A child might think that if you are offering them something to not cry, then there is something to cry about. Showing patience and a positive attitude can often instill more confidence in a child than bribing would without the high potential for backfire.
- Have A Fun Pretend Visit: Have a pretend visit to the dentist where you and your child take turns looking at each other’s teeth. Get them ready for a fun day at the beach shack, or an underwater adventure. Our specially trained staff will help take care of the rest!
- Be Calm Always and Firm When Necessary: A child’s dental anxiety, no matter how severe, will only get worse if the adults around them are anxious as well. If a child is acting particularly anxious or difficult, show appropriate firmness without losing your cool. Being calm without being in control can also make a child feel anxious. Instead, show authority in a calm, collected manner and reassure your child that the task at hand is under control.
- Show Positive Reinforcement After Each Visit: Positive reinforcement is different than bribing. It isn’t something a child expects as a reward and it shows your child that they are doing something good for themselves. Showing positive reinforcement after each dental visit can help instill in your child a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that they have made a good decision for their own personal health.