While most people don’t necessarily enjoy going to the dentist, even a simple appointment for a checkup and cleaning can feel traumatic for people with dental anxiety, especially when they’re children. If your child suffers from dental anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help them manage their fears so they can get the oral health care they need.
At Oasis Pediatric Dental Care & Orthodontics, our pediatric dentist, Dr. Nathalie Phaeton, and pediatric orthodontist, Dr. Ki Youn Kill, offer dental and orthodontic services in a calm and relaxing setting at our office in Falls Church, Virginia.
Tips for helping your child overcome dental anxiety and fear
Even adults suffer from dental anxiety, so it’s completely normal and understandable for children to, as well. Dental anxiety and fear are extremely common. Studies have found that up to 75% of adults suffer from some type of anxiety about going to the dentist. So naturally, children aren’t immune to dental anxiety and fear either. The good news is there are several things you can do to ensure your children remain calm and get the dental care they need now and in the future.
Keep up with dental appointments
It probably sounds counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to tackle dental anxiety is by actually going to the dentist. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends scheduling your baby’s first dental appointment by their first birthday, or no later than six months after their first tooth has erupted.
Keeping up with dental checkups and cleanings every year allows your child to get comfortable with going to the dentist for routine care, and they also make it less likely your child will need invasive treatment for cavities.
Choose a trusted dentist
Our team of pediatric dentistry specialists prioritizes every child’s comfort and safety at every appointment. Finding a “dental home” for your child, with trusted faces, can take a lot of the stress out of the process and make the child feel more at ease with every appointment.
Have fun with oral hygiene and dental care at home
As many adults know all too well, oral hygiene and dental care can feel like a chore, even when you don’t suffer from dental anxiety. So using positive reinforcement and making brushing and flossing fun for kids can take away a lot of the stress from the experience and make them want to participate.
Some of the things you can do to make brushing and flossing fun include:
- Let your child choose their favorite toothbrush and toothpaste
- Set a schedule
- Brush and floss together
- Make it a game, and offer rewards for hitting milestones like no cavities at the next appointment or for a flossing streak
- Play their favorite music
There are no set rules to making oral hygiene fun, so feel free to get creative!
Take reinforcements to every appointment
Just like with brushing and flossing, there’s no rule that says going to the dentist can’t be fun. If your child is anxious or afraid, take along objects that will comfort and distract them. That can be anything from a phone or tablet where they can watch their favorite movie or show, to a toy or their favorite book.
Lead by example
Don’t skip out on your own oral hygiene and dental appointments! Show your kids they have nothing to fear from the dentist by taking them along to your own appointments, if possible.
Understand the nature of their dental anxiety
Dental anxiety takes many forms. Some people are afraid of pain or the sight of dental instruments like needles and drills. Others panic from sitting in the waiting room or at the smell of a specific type of chemical. If your child starts to exhibit dental anxiety, talk to them and try to figure out their specific fears so you can address them accordingly.
Overcoming dental anxiety in childhood is the best way to ensure that your children don’t carry their fear and stress about going to the dentist into adulthood.
For more information and tips to help your children overcome dental anxiety and fear, call Oasis Pediatric Dental Care & Orthodontics at 703-498-2440 to schedule an appointment at our office, or book online with us today.