By Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer on Nov 06 2019
The dentist is a very common childhood fear and should be taken seriously. Of course, this does not mean you should allow your child to skip out on regularly scheduled dental appointments, rather you can equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge to help ease this fear for your child and make dental appointments a breeze. Check out the five ways you can ease your child’s fear of the dentist!
Do Your Research
It is always important to research a dental practice before choosing to go there, especially if you know your child has a fear of the dentist.
There are many things that should be taking into consideration when choosing a dental practice for you and your family. Consider looking for keywords about the office like “child-friendly” to ensure this is the right place for your children, It is also a good idea to call the office ahead of time to inform them of your child’s fear to see if they take any measures to calm their anxiety.
Determining the most convenient location for your family is also something to be considered as you are more likely to go if it’s not out of the way. Once you find a good dental practice that suits your family needs, staying with them will help your children become comfortable in their care and eventually eliminate their fear.
Visit a Pediatric Dentist
A pediatric dentist specializes in kid’s period. Although their main focus is your child’s developing mouth and teeth they are also equipped to handle children who suffer from anxiety or panic while at the dentist. You can count on a pediatric dentist office to have the following tools that may help ease your child’s panic or discomfort:
- Colorful Decorations
- Televisions playing children shows
- Age-appropriate toys
- Patient and understanding staff
Your child isn’t the first to have this fear and they certainly won’t be the last. A pediatric dentist is trained to use positive affirmations to comfort your child and teaching them the dentist office is not a scary place after all. Some offices have private rooms for anxious children to receive treatment in, this offers a more intimate experience for the child and usually results in a better overall experience.
Frequent visits to the dentist are a great way for your child to overcome their fear, bringing them to regularly scheduled cleanings will expose them to the environment and over time help them understand there is no reason to be afraid.
This is also a great opportunity for your child to be educated on the importance of good oral hygiene and the lasting effects it has on your overall health and well being. It has also been proven to be effective if you bring your child along to your dental appointments or those of their siblings so they feel less alone.
According to Colgate, between 30-40 million people have anxiety surrounding dental appointments and put off seeing the dentist for that reason. Not taking action against this fear, like many others, will only make the emotional distress worse over time and could be detrimental to your child’s health.
Role play is a great way to make your child more comfortable with the dentist. Allowing them to feel in control of the situation and getting hands-on experience with similar-looking tools will give them a sense of familiarity and lessen their anxiety while visiting the dentist. Some great ways to role-play at home include:
- Purchasing a lab coat for your child
- Allowing them to use “dental tools” on you and their toys
- Watching kid-friendly shows about the dentist
Most fears stem from being unsure of what the outcome of a situation will be as well as feeling like you are out of control or have no control over the situation. Eliminating those negative feelings for your child begins at home, always use positive and uplifting words while speaking about the dentist.
Talk about It at Home
Allowing your child to confide in you is a big part of helping them overcome their fears. It can feel frustrating or embarrassing for you at times, especially when your child is protesting their next dental visit but it is important to take into account how they are feeling about the situation.
Many children outgrow their fear of the dentist after being exposed to the environment over the years but sometimes dental anxiety can carry through into adulthood and in extreme cases, it can develop into a serious phobia.
For most children, all it takes to outgrow this fear is some perseverance, someone to discuss their feelings with and a good support system which includes parents and their dental care provider.
Once dental anxiety is a thing of the past, your child’s path to a healthy smile and great oral hygiene will begin!