Studies show that 21% of 5-year-olds are anxious about going to the dentist. But everyone can experience stress over getting dental care. Part of dental anxiety is not knowing what to expect when they sit on the chair, which can be scary if it’s something new and unknown.
The good news is that parents can help their children deal with anxiety around a dentist visit by educating them about dental health and planning a fun event after an appointment. Shifting the focus from fear to something enjoyable can be a powerful method and help children overcome their anxiety.
But, it’s important to find supportive pediatric dentistry that offers resources and help for struggling parents.
Learn more about how to ease your child’s anxiety with these tips.
Why Do Children Get Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is different for every child, which can make it difficult to treat if you don’t know the symptoms. Typically, children suffer from anxiety in other areas of their life as well as dental visits. For example, children are overwhelmed by the process of breathing when having an examination.
When a child is lying on their back, breathing can be difficult if they prefer breathing through their mouth. Most of the time, this problem can be fixed once your child has been a few times to the dentist. They will learn to adapt to the situation and realize it’s not as restrictive as they thought.
Some other reasons that children have dental anxiety are:
- Feeling powerless
- Unexpected pain
- Fear of loud noises
There’s research that suggests children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can suffer more than other children when going to the dentist. Therefore, it’s important to consider the context of the anxiety and keep track of other mental health problems. This way, you can address them with your mental health professional if they progress.
Oral hygiene is vital for adulthood, so it’s crucial that children are able to go to the dentist without anxiety. Otherwise, they could have severe issues that need urgent medical attention. For instance, they could need dental surgery or multiple cavities if they neglect their dental care.
How to Deal With Dental Anxiety in Children
Dealing with dental anxiety is similar to other anxiety; creating a comforting environment is important. If you inform your dentist of your children’s fear, they can put on music or provide positive reinforcement. Many dental practices also give children stickers or books to keep them occupied in the waiting room.
But it’s also a good idea to bring a bag of toys for children so they can be distracted from the surroundings.
Pack a Comfort Bag
Comfort items like soft toys or stress balls are ideal for dental anxiety as they are portable. All you need is a bag and the item; you can take them anywhere you go. This offers children a familiar item that makes the dentist feel less daunting.
Toys are good for holding during the appointment and are great for stress relief. Get your child involved with the packing by asking them what toy they would like to take with them to the dentist. This makes them feel in control and also gets them excited about the process.
Another option is to go shopping for a new toy before the dental visit. Buying something new is an excellent way to put your child at ease and motivate them to go for a checkup. If they can associate the dentist clinic with something positive, it will encourage them to go more in the future.
Read About the Dentist
Children are constantly learning about their environment and adapting to different experiences. Reading is an effective method for educating young people about professions and helping them cope with the feeling of the unknown. If they read a happy story about going to the dentist, it will take away some of their fear.
There are also some books available that address dental anxiety so you can learn with your child. Picture books are also good for visualizing the experience and answering any questions they have. Many children feel anxious because going to the dentist is invasive and uncomfortable.
Once they see that there’s nothing to worry about, they will become more confident going and visiting the dentist next time.
Take Them With You to the Dentist
Taking your child with you to the dentist before their appointment is important for adjusting them to the space. If they can walk around and ask the dentist questions, they will feel less scared when going for their checkup. Plus, it’s a great time to set a good example by being positive.
Remember that you want your child to be happy around the dentist, so it’s not a good idea to take them with you if you have a complicated procedure planned. This could be damaging and make your child even more anxious if they see something painful.
Therefore, try to plan the visit for a regular checkup so there are minimal loud noises and drilling.
Another tip is to brush your teeth together and play music at home. Then, you can take headphones and play the same music during the appointment to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. The music acts as a calming influence but also reminds them of the comfort of home. Plus, it encourages good oral hygiene.
Every child will need different support, so try these techniques and see what works best for your little one.
The Best Pediatric Care for Children
There’s nothing worse than seeing your child suffer from dental anxiety and being unable to support them. But there’s always something you can do as a parent to make the experience less intimidating. You can take them shopping for a new toy, play music, or let them read books on the subject.
Your child might even grow up to be a dentist if they see how positive and fun it can be!
To book your next appointment, check out our website and contact our team for more patient information.