Dental anxiety is one of the most common fears among children. Something as simple as mentioning a dental appointment can set off worrisome feelings in some kids. And yet, regular dental visits are necessary for maintaining healthy oral hygiene and preventing cavities, gum disease, and other serious dental problems. So what are parents supposed to do when it feels like there’s no way to get through? Here are ways that may help ease your child’s dental anxiety.
1. Acknowledge the Fear
Let’s face it; regular dental appointments are never pleasant. Even adults can get anxious when they visit the dentist, and most children become extremely fearful at the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair and getting their teeth worked on. Instead of brushing aside your child’s reaction to their upcoming appointment, acknowledge the fear. Don’t belittle your child or their feelings, rather tell them that you understand why they would be afraid of the dentist and let them know that everyone has times when they are afraid.
2. Keep Your Child Informed
Children generally feel more relaxed and safe when they understand what will happen during their dental appointment. Let your child know that the dentist is going to check their teeth and gums and take some x-rays of their mouth. Make sure your child knows who will do what before, during, and after their dental appointment.
3. Simulate a Dental Office
A few weeks before your child’s scheduled appointment, conduct a practice session at home. Pretend that you are the dentist and your child is one of your patients. Let them know they can ask any questions and engage them in this role-play experience by asking them what they think the dentist might say or do during their visit.
4. Relaxation Techniques
Before taking your child for their real appointment, practice some relaxation techniques to help reduce fear. While watching TV or reading a book together, take deep breaths with your child and guide them through muscle relaxation exercises. This will benefit children who have panic attacks and those who simply feel anxious about going to the dentist’s office.
Distractions can help take children’s minds off their worries and reduce the fear they experience when visiting the dentist. Bring along a favorite toy, book, or stuffed animal to play with during your child’s dental appointment.
According to the AAO, an estimated 50-75% of the population (including children) could benefit from orthodontic treatment. Unfortunately, your child’s dental anxiety may be preventing them from receiving the treatment they need. If you feel like your child’s dental anxiety is becoming a problem, try out these five tricks to help ease their fears before their next appointment.