How To Handle Dentist Visits?

Dental anxiety is when kids feel scared or stressed about the dentist. Some children get upset by the smells or sounds of the tools on their first dental visit. Others hear scary stories from friends or family and can’t forget them.

The only thing that can trigger concern is your child completely saying no to going to the dentist. Even if your child brushes their teeth well, they can’t clean their teeth as thoroughly and can’t spot problems.

Your child’s oral health can get much worse if they keep on skipping dentist appointments.  It can lead to more serious treatments like local anesthetic or tooth extractions, often their biggest fears.

That’s why it’s important to address dental anxiety early and help your child build an excellent relationship with their dentist. 

Let’s talk about dental anxiety in children in detail. 

Why Do Children Feel Dental Anxiety?

Now, why does a child get dental anxiety? It can trigger due to mainly one of these reasons: 

Fear of Teeth Pain

Children often worry that dental procedures will hurt. This fear can come from their experiences or hearing about others’ experiences.

Fear of the Unknown

A dental office can seem strange and unfamiliar. The sounds of the tools, the sight of the dentist’s equipment, and the smell of the office can all be unsettling for your kid.

Bad Experiences from the Past

If a child feels anxious on their first dental checkup or has a painful experience, they will be more nervous about going back. 

Parental Anxiety

Your child can pick up on what you feel while getting teeth treatment. They may feel the same way if you get anxious about

dentist visits. 

Why Do Children Feel Dental Anxiety

What are the Symptoms of Dental Anxiety?

You can know if your child is having dental anxiety by observing these symptoms: 

Crying or Tantrums

Your child might cry, scream, or have a tantrum when it’s time to visit the dentist.

Refusing to Go

They might refuse to leave the house or get into the car for their appointment.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can cause symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, or sickness.

Clinginess

An anxious child might become clingy and refuse to let go of you or your partner.

Sleep Problems

Your child might have trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment.

How to Tackle Dental Anxiety in Children?

Every parent gets worried if their children exhibit severe anxiety. But it’s time to take action and help your child. Overall, dealing with children’s anxiety requires patience, understanding, and some clever ways. 

Here are some ways to help your child feel more comfortable about going to the dentist:

How to Tackle Dental Anxiety in Children

1. Start from an Early Age 

Begin dental visits early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit a dentist as soon as they turn one. 

Starting early helps children get used to the dentist’s office and makes dental visits a normal part of life.

2. Use Positive Language

Positively talk about the dentist. Avoid using words like “pain,” “hurt,” or “shot.” Instead, use words like “clean,” “healthy,” and “strong.” 

For example, say, “The dentist will help keep your teeth clean and healthy” instead of “The dentist is going to check if you have any cavities.”

3. Read Books or Watch Videos 

The bookstores and the internet are filled with children’s books and videos regarding dental anxiety.  

Engage your child in reading these books and watching such videos. What’s better is you join this activity and explain everything to them. They will understand what to expect from the dentist and might feel at peace. 

4. Role Play

Playing dentist at home can be fun. It is a constructive way to prepare your child. 

Use a toothbrush and a mirror to pretend to check their teeth. It can make the actual visit seem less scary.

5. Stay Calm and Positive

Children can sense when their parents are anxious. If you stay calm and positive, your child will feel the same. 

Speak in a calming tone while smiling. Even if your child still feels fear, tell them how brave they are.

6. Choose the Right Dentist

Look for a pediatric dentist who specializes in working with toddlers. Moreover, they have kid-friendly offices with toys, games, and colorful decorations.

7. Visit the Office Before the Appointment

Take your child to visit the dentist’s office before their appointment. Let them meet the dentist and the staff, see the tools, and run around the office. It can make the actual visit feel more comfortable.

8. Bring a Comfort Item from Home

A favourite item can be a soothing sign for your child. Let them bring a toy, such as a stuffed animal, to the appointment. Having a favorite object can make them feel comfortable and secure. 

9. Use Distraction Techniques

During the appointment, use distraction techniques to take your child’s mind off their anxiety. Bring a favorite book, play a game on a tablet, or listen to music together.

10. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation strategies can help anyone, be it a child or an adult. Deep breathing can help your child let go of the constant fear. These techniques need some practice, so prepare your child at home.

11. Give Your Child Rewards

Offering a small reward after the appointment can motivate your child to be brave. You can paste a motivating sticker on their shirt. You can take them to the mall and get them a toy. A trip to the park is also a great idea to motivate a child to a dentist appointment. 

12. Be Honest

It is important to use positive language. However, it’s also important to be honest. If your child asks if something will hurt, don’t lie. Instead, say, “It might feel a little uncomfortable, but it will be over quickly, and I will be right here with you.”

13. Praise Your Kid for a Job Well-Done

Never forget to praise your child for putting on a brave face at the dentist. 

Talk about how proud you are of them and how well they did. 

A Last Word!

Dental anxiety in children is common. However, we believe the right approach can make or break a child.  The parent’s responsibility is to help their child feel comfortable when visiting the dentist. 

With time, your child can overcome dental anxiety and develop a healthy attitude toward dental care.


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