Dental anxiety affects people of all ages, but it can be more common among children who may be worried about the unknown, or feel scared based on a previous experience where they have had a dental procedure which caused them pain. When you are due to take your child to your local Cheltenham dentist be sure to try out some of the methods of calming your child before, during and after dental appointments.
Answer Their Questions
Children by nature are often very curious about the world around them, which leads them to ask a lot of questions to build their knowledge. Sometimes they can encounter situations or places that make them anxious and scared, but sitting your child down and answering any questions they have will help put your child at ease. When you are answering the questions try to put a positive spin on all of your answers and explain the fact that the dentist is there to help you; and that your child can ask any questions they have to the dentist during their appointment. This can often result in your child being less scared of the dentist on their next visit.
Do Not Project Your Own Dental Anxiety Onto Your Child
If you have dental anxiety yourself it may be time for you to take personal action to fix this, for both the health of your teeth and the sake of your child’s oral health. Children learn from observing their parents, if you make the impression on your child that the dentist is something to be scared of, your child will become scared of the dentist. Even if you are scared of the dentist it is important to attend the dentist yourself and speak about them in a positive light.
Be Realistic With Them If A Dental Treatment Is Going To Be Painful
If they are getting a procedure that is going to cause them pain it is important to make them aware of this, but also promise a reward for their bravery once the procedure is done. Many parents fall into the trap of promising their children that their dental appointments will not be painful, but this is a promise that can be easily broken, if you have promised your child that the dental appointment won’t be painful in the past and they experience pain they will be less likely to trust you or the dentist in the future.
Tell Them To Think Happy Thoughts Whilst At The Dentist
Telling your child to think happy thoughts to distance themselves from being sat in a dentist’s chair can help some children, your child may be able to focus on their favourite TV show, game or funny things that their friends have done instead of worrying about being at the dentist.
Use At-Home Play To Reduce Dental Anxiety
You could engage your child in a role play where you pretend you are a dentist and want to look at their teeth. By doing this you can reduce your child’s anxiety around going to the dentist because they know more of what to expect. You could also pretend to do a dentist checkup on your child’s favourite toy, your child may be surprised by the bravery of their toy and exert the same bravery during their dentist appointment.
Help Your Dentist Find Common Ground Before Their Appointment
Whilst you are sitting in your children’s dentist appointment you could bring up your child’s favourite hobbies to allow the dentist to be able to build rapport with your child to make the whole experience less scary. Your child then may have something to talk to their dentist about at each of their future appointments, which could even lead to them looking forward to their next dentist appointment.
Take Proper Care Of Your Child’s Teeth
The better you and your child can take care of their teeth the less likely their teeth will encounter problems leading to them having to get potentially painful treatments from the dentist. This means that as long as their teeth are properly cared for for the most part their dental visits should be positive. But to achieve this you need to make sure that you are brushing your child’s teeth for two minutes twice a day and limiting how much sugar your child regularly consumes.
Schedule Regular Dentist Appointments
You should take your child to the dentist at least every 6 months for a checkup to allow their dentist to ensure that their teeth are healthy. Scheduling a dentist around every 6 months your child may remember their experience from the last time, this can be a good thing if you were able to control your child’s fear on their last visit and have rewarded them for their bravery. They will remember what to expect and they can also focus on their next reward.
Bring Your Child’s Favourite Stuffed Toy
Bringing your child’s favourite stuffed toy with you to your child’s next dentist appointment can provide your child with a greater level of emotional support during their appointment. Your child can clutch onto their stuffed toy before and after the dentist appointment to provide reassurance to themself.
Allow The Dentist Team To Take The Lead During The Appointment
Your dentist likely has experience examining the teeth of countless children’s teeth throughout their careers, this experience will give them techniques to help calm children. Whilst you know your child best it is important to remember that dentists are trained professionals who know what is best for your child’s oral health.
Show Your Child YouTube Videos Of Dentists Speaking In Kid-Friendly Language
Some dentists have their own YouTube channels where they make YouTube videos on a variety of dental topics. Dental anxiety is a common phenomenon amongst both children and adults; because of this, there are plenty of YouTube videos of dentists attempting to reassure nervous patients. Within the video the dentist may take the audience on a tour around their dentist’s office, explaining what different pieces of equipment do. This type of content can help bring out the curiosity in your child and reduce dental anxiety in the process!
Do You Know A Dentist?
You may know someone who is a dentist, this person could be a fantastic person for your child to speak to about the worries they have. As dentists have a higher level of knowledge than you (if you are not a dentist yourself) they will be able to answer questions with a higher degree of certainty, and will also be able to answer more complex children your child may have.
Use Music To Reduce Dental Anxiety
With the permission of your dentist, you can give your child a pair of headphones to listen to during their appointment to help keep them calm during their dentist appointment. The dentist can explain to your child that when they give them a signal such as tapping them on their arm they need to take out their earphones and listen to commands the dentist has such as getting the child to open their mouth wider.
There are many ways that you can calm your child before, during and after their dental appointment. Your child will respond differently to each of the suggestions we have made in this article, you should work with your child to develop helpful strategies to help them overcome their dental anxiety.
Amy, is a children’s health and wellness writer who specialises in all things dental.