- Dental anxiety is a common fear among children, ranging from mild to severe.
- Common causes of dental anxiety include fear of pain, loss of control, sensory overload, and the unknown.
- Parents can prevent their child’s dental anxiety by making it a habit, practicing healthy habits, being positive, and finding the right dentist.
- Parents need to educate their children on dental procedures and vocabulary in an age-appropriate way.
- Positive experiences at the dentist are essential to overall health and well-being.
Dental anxiety is not uncommon among children. Many children experience this anxiety at some point in their childhood. Seeing your child distressed over routine dental visits can be disheartening as a parent or caregiver. While every child is different, and some may feel more comfortable than others, there are several reasons why your child may be experiencing anxiety toward dental visits. Here’s what you need to know about dental anxiety, its reasons, and how to deal with it as a parent.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is the fear of going to the dentist or undergoing dental procedures. It can range from mild to severe and is more common in young children than adults. While dental anxiety may be difficult for your child to express, there are certain signs you can look out for, such as crying, screaming, or refusing to go near a dentist’s office. Additionally, here are some leading reasons for dental anxiety:
Fear of Pain
One of the most common reasons for dental anxiety in children is the fear of pain. The thought of needles or drills can be unnerving for anyone, let alone a child. Children may also associate the dental office with past painful experiences, such as a previous cavity filling or tooth extraction. The fear of pain can also be heightened if the child sees a new dentist or hygienist for the first time. To alleviate this fear, you must communicate with your child about the upcoming appointment and reassure them that modern dental practices often involve minimal to no pain.
Loss of Control
Another reason for dental anxiety in children is the loss of control. Children may feel anxious about not being in control of the situation, especially when they are asked to lie still for extended periods and open their mouths. Some children may feel embarrassed about their teeth or fear judgment from the dentist or hygienist. To combat this loss of control, encourage your child to speak up during the appointment if they feel uncomfortable or need a break. Also, remind them that dental professionals have seen it all and are there to help, not judge.
Dental offices can be overwhelming for children unfamiliar with the sights, smells, and sounds. The bright lights, unfamiliar smells, and the sound of the drill can all add up to make the experience stressful for children. To help your child prepare for the dental visit, try to watch some kid-friendly videos about dental visits beforehand, and maybe even have a practice with a toothbrush and looking into a pretend mouth. Preparing your child for what to expect beforehand can help relieve some anxiety.
Lastly, the unknown can significantly affect a child’s dental anxiety. Children may not understand what is happening during the procedure, which can increase their anxiety. The unfamiliar language the dentist or hygienist uses around dental vocabulary can increase a child’s fear. To help ease your child’s anxiety, try educating them about the procedure and vocabulary in a language they can understand. You can also ask if the dentist or hygienist can explain things in more kid-friendly terms.
Tips to Prevent Dental Anxiety
There are various tips you can prevent dental anxiety among children. Here are four ways:
Make it a Habit
You must make visiting dental visits a habit. Visiting the local family dentist annually can give your family multiple benefits. First, it can help to ensure your child’s mouth is healthy and free from problems. It can also help your child become comfortable with the dentist’s office.
Practice What You Preach
You must practice what you preach regarding dental hygiene. Make sure to brush and floss properly, and always remember to prioritize oral health in your children’s life.
When discussing dentists or upcoming appointments, try to be positive in front of your child. A negative attitude may cause more anxiety for them in the future. It’s best to keep things light-hearted by telling stories about previous experiences at the dentist or making jokes about brushing your teeth.
Find the Right Dentist
Finally, finding the right dentist for your child can help to reduce their dental anxiety. You must look for a family dentist who specializes in treating children and is experienced in dealing with anxious patients.
Dental anxiety can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean your child has to go through it alone. With the right attitude, knowledge about dental practices, and a trusted family dentist, you can help your child face his or her fears and have positive experiences at the dentist’s office. After all, healthy teeth are an essential part of overall health!