Dental anxiety is a very common problem that affects children as well as adults. In fact, studies estimate that as many as 20% of school-aged children are frightened of visiting their dentist. Nevertheless, your child’s dental health is extremely important and regular visits are essential so that your dentist can check that your child’s teeth are developing properly and that they and your child’s mouth are healthy. Poor oral health has been linked to serious health problems in adults, so developing great dental habits at an early age is recommended. While this may start at home with brushing and flossing, regular visits to your dentist are needed to keep dental problems at bay for as long as possible.
Why is my child frightened of the dentist?
Exactly why children develop dental anxiety can vary, but inherited fear is often one of the key underlying reasons. Inherited fear is when children detect their parent’s apprehension or anxiety about visiting the dentist or undergoing dental treatment which in turn causes them to experience the same emotions.
It may not even be the dentist or the thought of treatment that is causing your child to be fearful. Sometimes just the sights, sounds and smells of a new environment can be enough to trigger anxiety in a child. Other causes of dental anxiety include fear of pain, fear of being separated from their parents or fear of needles. Some are scared of holding their mouth open and being unable to swallow, or of having to stay still while their check-up or work is carried out.
Managing pediatric dental anxiety
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help your child manage their dental anxiety enough for them to be able to tolerate dental appointments. Here are some of the most effective methods for managing pediatric dental anxiety.
Start visits young. The earlier you can get your little one used to visiting the dentist, the quicker it will become normal for them. Ideally, you should take your child for their first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth appears, and no later than their first birthday.
Play dentists at home. Another great way of getting your child used to what will happen at the dentist’s office is to play dentists at home. This role-playing game gets your child comfortable with opening their mouth and you touching their teeth in a safe environment with someone they love and trust. You can take turns in pretending to be the patient too.
Use simple explanations. Most children appreciate being told what to expect before an appointment, but it is important to keep the information that you share simple and straightforward. Any complex details could overwhelm your child and cause them to ask questions that may be difficult to answer.
Choose a great pediatric dentist. One of the best ways to overcome pediatric dental anxiety is to choose an experienced pediatric dentist who understands why children become frightened or anxious and who can calm and reassure them. Our experienced dental team is dedicated to helping patients of all ages access the oral care that they need and use a range of techniques to help children feel at home when they visit our practice.
For more tips on managing pediatric dental anxiety, please contact our team today.