Being afraid of the dentist is very common. In fact, it’s so common that many Americans admit to avoiding dental visits until absolutely necessary because they’re too anxious. While dental anxiety can begin at any age, it can be a particularly difficult issue in children. Skipping out on regular dental care isn’t good for your child’s oral health, so helping them overcome their fear of the dentist is essential for the health of their teeth and gums. Here are some ways that you, as a parent, can help combat dental anxiety in your child.
Start Their Visits at an Early Age
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental appointment within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or by the time they reach one year of age, whichever comes first. Infant dental care is important on its own, but starting visits early in life can actually help prevent your child from developing a fear of the dentist. Your child will get into the routine of visiting the dentist regularly when they are younger and likely less anxious.
Visiting the dentist at an early age also helps prevent dental issues like cavities, which means you can reduce your child’s risk of needing any extensive treatment down the line. Since most people’s fear of the dentist can stem from painful procedures, keeping your child’s teeth healthy can actually help prevent them from developing dental anxiety. Waiting to bring your child to the dentist until they’re experiencing something like tooth pain or tooth decay will only make them feel more scared about what’s to come.
Choose a Pediatric Dentist
It may seem convenient to just bring your child to the same dentist that you see, but it’s not the best call for your child. Look for a pediatric dentist in your area instead. Pediatric dentists undergo an additional 2-3 years of training, making them especially well-equipped to handle nervous children. They also have the right bedside manner for talking to children, which makes them less intimidating than a dentist who is used to interacting with adult patients.
Pediatric dentists’ offices are designed to be kid friendly. Often, the waiting rooms have toys and games to put your child at ease. The staff will also be more equipped to handle child-specific issues, like keeping sunglasses on hand to help with bright lights.
Don’t Use Negative Words
When talking about the dentist, parents should avoid using words that have negative connotations. Using words like “shot,” “pain,” or “hurt” can make your child feel afraid. Instead, opt for positive phrases like “strong, healthy teeth” to help your child connect positive feelings with the dentist. Some dentists recommend telling your child that the dentist is going to check their smile and count their teeth. It’s a nonthreatening way to convey what’s going to happen, and your child may feel less anxious when they know what lies ahead.
While your child is at the dentist’s office, it’s best to minimize your talking. Instead, let the dentist talk to your child. Conversations between the dentist and your child can help build rapport and reduce your child’s fear of the dentist, and the dentist has also been trained in the most effective way to communicate with your child.
Visit Their Dentist Before the Appointment
If your child’s fear of the dentist is apparent before their appointment, call the dentist’s office and ask if you and your child can come for a meet and greet. With a meet and greet, your child can visit the dentist’s office and meet the staff before their actual appointment. It’s a low stakes, non-threatening way to help your child adjust to the atmosphere of the dentist. Going to a new place can be scary, so visiting the office before any procedures take place can remove that element of fear on the day of the actual appointment. Once they know what to expect, your child will likely feel less anxious.
Even though offering a reward for good behavior can seem like a good idea, many experts recommend against it. By telling your child that they’ll get a treat for being good at the dentist, your child will wonder what is so bad about the dentist that would make them misbehave in the first place. Instead, try praising your child when they are good at the dentist.
Get Closer, If Needed
For some children, having their parent close by can make a huge difference in anxiety levels. Pediatric dentists will allow you to accompany your child during their appointment, and if necessary, there are ways to use your presence to help combat your child’s fear of the dentist.
Holding your child’s hand during the procedure can make them feel safer and less anxious. If your child is particularly anxious, some dentists will allow your child to sit on your lap. The dentist can do a mock exam of your mouth, showing the child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Choose a Kid-Friendly Dentist
Even if your child has a fear of the dentist, going to the dentist doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Most children can be calmed with the use of one or a combination of these techniques. If you feel like you’ve tried it all, consider pediatric sedation dentistry to help put your child at ease at the dentist. There is something out there that can help alleviate your child’s anxiety. Once you figure that out, dentist’s trips will be a breeze. Make sure to schedule regular cleanings every 6 months to help keep your child’s oral health at its best. To make an appointment at Children’s Dentistry in Las Vegas, contact us at one of our convenient locations today.