Tips to help your child overcome their fear of the dentist
Is your child fearful of the dentist? It’s normal for children to have anxiety about many things, from scary monsters to heights to being left alone. Helping children overcome these fears and ease their anxiety gives them valuable coping tools. As a parent, you may be wondering, “But how do I help my children overcome their fear of the dentist?” In the following post, we’ll look at some things you can do to make visiting the dentist a positive experience for your child.
What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is fear or stress as it relates to visiting the dentist. Individuals with dental anxiety experience intense feelings about going to the dentist’s office which can often lead to avoiding or delaying necessary care, ultimately compromising oral health. Dental anxiety can be a general fear of the dentist or may be related to certain triggers such as the sound of a drill or the smell of the office. Dental anxiety is a common problem in children.
How parents can help their children overcome the fear of the dentist
Parents play an important role in helping children overcome their fear of the dentist. It’s vital to communicate with the dentist prior to any visits in order to make sure that both parties work together to make the visit go smoothly.
You should also try following these simple tips.
Tell your child they have an upcoming dental visit
Children thrive on routine and predictability. Being able to mentally prepare for their visit will help them manage their anxiety once they arrive. Waiting until you are on the way to the dentist office can send your child into an anxiety tailspin. Try sitting them down and explaining to them that they have an upcoming dental visit. Let them ask questions and make sure to answer them in a simple, straight forward way.
It’s good to keep the conversation positive and light, but don’t lie to them and say things like “I promise you won’t need to have a filling.” Statements like this could give your child false hope and create a bigger problem down the road. Let them know that the dentist is friendly and is there to make sure they have healthy, strong teeth. It’s also good to let them know that they can ask the dentist questions and the dentist is there to keep them safe.
If your child is into pretend play, a fake visit where you play the dentist and practice counting their teeth and use a toothbrush to clean their teeth can help them understand how the real visit will go.
Follow the lead of the dentist and the staff
Dentists and their teams have a lot of experience dealing with anxious children. Ask for their advice about helping your child overcome their fears and then follow that advice. Many dentists will recommend having a small comfort item for your child which makes them feel safe.
Book an Appointment
If you have dental anxiety, it’s best not to mention this to a child. Children pick up on their parent’s anxiety. It’s also important to stay as calm as possible if your child begins to act out on their anxiety. Continue to speak to your child in a gentle, collective manner that will help soothe them.
The role of a dentist in overcoming children’s fears
A dentist who has experience working with children will know how to speak in a friendly tone with simple words to help ease their anxiety. The dentist should use positive reinforcement and praise children for their bravery. Engaging the child in conversation can keep them distracted from the exam or procedure.
Starting young helps prevent dental anxiety
One of the best things you can do to make your child comfortable with the dentist is to start their visits at a young age. When your child has frequent positive experiences at the dentist office, they will be comfortable and relaxed when visiting in the future.
At Dentistry at LaSalle in Aldershot, we have experience working with children who have a fear of the dentist. We encourage parents to let us know about the child’s anxiety so that we can come up with a plan to make sure their experience is a positive one. For more information, please give us a call at (905) 481-9078.