Dental anxiety is a common problem for both children and adults. According to recent studies, as many as a third of Americans put off going to the dentist or avoid treatment entirely due to dental anxiety or fear. Ironically, avoiding the dentist and skipping preventive treatment often leads to the types of oral health problems that eventually require the more significant and invasive dental work that people fear most.
Children are particularly vulnerable to dental fear and phobias, and the risk of anxiety has been found to be even higher if one or both parents suffer from it as well. If your children are struggling with dental anxiety, we can help. At Oasis Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics, our dentists Dr. Nathalie Phaeton and Dr. Ki Youn Kil offer pediatric dentistry services in a calm and comfortable setting at our office in Falls Church, Virginia.
Tips for dealing with pediatric dental anxiety
As the old saying goes, prevention is the best medicine, and that also holds true for common problems like dental anxiety. Getting your children comfortable with regular dental care as early as possible is the best way to help them build good oral health habits and prevent the anxiety that will hold them back from seeing the dentist regularly.
Don’t skip the child’s first dental visit
It might seem a bit early, but the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that parents take children for their first checkup with a pediatric dentist six months after their first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday. In addition to monitoring their development and checking for any problems, early trips to the dentist help children get comfortable in the setting and build a relationship with the dentist. This can go a long way toward managing or even preventing anxiety in the future.
Ask questions about their fears
Dental anxiety comes in many shapes and forms. For some people, the fear of needles or a specific procedure causes panic and anxiety. But dental fear can involve any part of the process, from the smell of chemicals in the office to sitting in the lobby and waiting to be called in. The more you know about what your child is afraid of, the easier it will be to accommodate them on the day of the appointment. Our dentists will work with your family to make sure that your child has a good experience with each visit.
Set a good example
If you’re struggling with your own dental anxiety, it’s not too late to get it under control. Talk to your dentist, and find out what you need to do to overcome it. If your children see that you can handle your visits, they’ll be more likely to accept their need to go to the dentist’s office themselves.
Establish a routine
Going to the dentist at regular intervals will help your child get used to the idea of going to the dentist in the first place, as well as instill the need for preventive care. If you only go to the dentist when something is wrong, that can reinforce negative associations and fear.
Make it fun
If your child has a favorite toy, game, or item of clothing they like to wear, encourage them to take it to the appointment to keep them calm and comfortable. After the appointment, consider rewarding them in some way to make the overall experience feel positive.
Dental fear and anxiety doesn’t have to get in the way of your child’s oral health. For more information about how to prevent and ease dental anxiety, call our office at 703-498-2440 or schedule an appointment online.