Dental anxiety is very common, unfortunately. In fact, according to some estimates, 10 to 15 percent of adults don’t go to the dentist because they suffer from anxiety. If you want your child to have good oral health throughout their life, it’s important to ensure they have positive dental experiences from the beginning. Here are some tips to help.
1. Visit the Dentist While Your Child Is Young
If your child starts going to the dentist when he or she is young, they get used to the idea. They get comfortable in the dental chair, and they know what to expect. Even children as young as toddlers will need a checkup with a dentist, and ideally, your child should see the dentist after their first tooth appears.
2. Look for a Family Friendly Clinic
In addition to starting young, it’s important that your child gets exposure to positive dental experiences. If a dental office is family friendly, the dental staff will know how to treat children. Choose a clinic that makes you and your child feel comfortable. You deserve a place “where friends and smiles are created” and at Family First Dentistry, that’s our motto.
3. Offer a Gentle Introduction to Dentistry
To prepare your child for his or her first dental appointment, you may want to introduce the idea gently. If you have dental horror stories, don’t tell them to your child.
There are lots of books that can help introduce dentistry to your child, and if your kid likes TV characters, you may want to check out “Dora Goes to the Dentist” or “Elmo Visits the Dentist”. Your local library may have other movies and books available as well.
Alternatively, you may want to have a pretend dental appointment at home. Let your child shine a light on a doll or stuffed animal and then “count” their teeth. Pretending should show your child just how easy a trip to the dentist can be!
4. Bring a Transition Object
If your child tends to be nervous in new situations, let them bring a transition object to the dentist. This object could be their favorite stuffed animal or a small blanket. It might help your child to hold on to something that makes them feel safe during the appointment.
5. Listen to Music
Eventually, your child may need to get work done. One in four kids under the age of four have a cavity, and as a result, dental work is pretty common even for young kids. Don’t worry. With an oral anesthesia, your child won’t feel a thing.
However, your child will be able to hear what’s going on, and that can be disconcerting for some kiddos. To help your child relax, consider letting them listen to comforting music on an MP3 player. This way your child won’t hear sounds that might otherwise scare them.
6. Practice Good Dental Hygiene
The less dental work children need, the fewer fears they’re likely to develop about the dentist. To keep the need for work at a minimum, practice good dental hygiene with your child. Start brushing as soon as your child gets his or her first tooth.
7. Explore Relaxation Techniques
If you’ve tried everything and your child is still anxious about the dentist, you may want to try some relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, visualization and meditation are all possible for children. Practicing those techniques at home gives your child useful relaxation skills that they can utilize when they experience anxiety in the dental chair.