More than one-fifth (22 percent) of Canadians experience an extreme fear of the dentist.
If your child is scared of the dentist, they’re certainly not alone. The good news is that this guide can help.
Below, you’ll find explanations of the roots of dental anxiety, tips for an easier dentist consultation, and advice on choosing the right dentist for anxious children.
Adults often have unrealistic expectations for children when they visit the dentist. They want their child to sit quietly, remain calm, and get through the exam as quickly as possible.
In reality, there are lots of reasons why kids struggle to meet these expectations. Here are some common issues that contribute to children's dental anxiety:
Negative past experiences
Fear of needles or injections
Fear of strange-looking dental tools
Fear of pain or discomfort
Fear of feeling trapped or out of control
Do any of those fears sound familiar? That’s because kids’ dental anxiety is usually caused by the same concerns that adults have!
Regardless of the cause (or causes) of your child’s dental anxiety, you can help them turn things around and start having more positive feelings about the dentist.
These tips can help your child (and you) have better, less stressful dentist appointments:
The sooner your child starts going to the dentist, the less afraid they’ll feel during subsequent visits.
Ideally, you’ll take your child to the dentist by the time they turn one. However, you can schedule their first appointment as soon as their teeth appear.
Search specifically for a dentist who specializes in treating children. They will likely have a better bedside manner with young, squirmy patients, which will help them feel less anxious.
Playing “dentist” at home can help your child know what to expect from their first appointment.
Have them lie back in a chair and open their mouth while you examine their teeth. Let them do the same for you, too.
Try to schedule your child’s appointment when they’re less likely to be tired or cranky. Don’t plan it during nap time, for example.
Bring a stuffed animal or blanket to help your child feel calm and reassured during the appointment. It can also serve as a distraction if they get scared.
Finally, do your best to stay calm.
If you’re anxious and on edge, your child will pick up on that and assume they should be afraid. If you’re calm and positive, they’re more likely to feel that way as well.
Resist the urge to skip dentist appointments because they cause your child stress and anxiety. Children’s dental health is essential, and being proactive about it when they’re young can set them up for better long-term oral health.
Regular dentist visits help reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to problems with chewing and speaking. Unaddressed dental problems can also cause pain and contribute to behavioural issues in some children.
After you learn the importance of good oral health for kids, talk to them about it. Explaining why going to the dentist regularly matters might help them feel calmer when they sit in the exam chair.
During these discussions, you also have a chance to answer questions like “How often should you go to the dentist?” and “What happens during a dental exam?”
For many kids, the more information they have, the less afraid they feel.
The right dentist can make all the difference for anxious children. These tips can streamline your search for a dentist:
Ask for a referral from friends or family members whose kids are also scared of the dentist
Look for pediatric and family dentists in your area — make sure they specialize in caring for anxious children
Read reviews and testimonials to learn about past patients’ experiences
You may also want to take a trip to the dentist’s office for a meet and greet. This gives you and your child a chance to get familiar with the area and see that it’s not scary.
If your child is scared of the dentist, they’re not alone. Plenty of people (of all ages) feel anxious sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Follow the guidelines discussed above, and you’ll have a much easier time getting them in for appointments and helping them maintain good oral health.
A great family dentist can make your child’s next dental appointment less stressful and more enjoyable. Maple Dental Health welcomes children of all ages and strives to create a comfortable and positive experience for every patient.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.