Calming Your Child’s Fears About the Dentist
Most children accept dental appointments as a normal part of their family routines—and many even think they’re fun! Yet did you know that parents may unknowingly increase anxiety for a child about an upcoming dental visit? At Peninsula Family Dentistry, it’s my goal to help your family’s appointments maximize each person’s oral health while enjoying a positive experience.
Normal jitters versus significant fears or anxiety
It is not uncommon for children—like adults—to feel a little nervous prior to something unknown and a visit to the dentist can fit this category. Although every child is wired differently, your child may become one who worries about their upcoming appointments and may even have trouble sleeping the night before—especially if they have a painful tooth or have had a bad experience elsewhere. It is my goal to help you as a parent put an end to all of this.
If your child struggles with dental care, perhaps these tips will help him or her stay calm and even learn to enjoy the appointments.
Try this at home:
- Model positive behavior when you go to the dentist, even if you are feeling anxious. Kids are very perceptive and if Mom or Dad doesn’t like going, they won’t either. It’s better to share your concerns out of earshot of your children
- Bring your child to your dental cleaning appointment so he or she can watch you have your teeth cleaned. They can even taste our special toothpaste!
- Speak positively about your child’s upcoming appointment while limiting the details about the appointment. Instead play up the positive about shiny teeth, nice people, and bringing a special book or headphones.
- If worried, suggest to your child that during her appointment, she think about something like a special birthday party or a favorite activity to play in her imagination to help distract her during her exam
- Celebrate their dental appointment with a fun reward for “being brave” (if they’re anxious) such as a trip to the park, a pack of stickers or other favorite treat – after all, building bravery works better for most of us and keeps the perspective positive rather than trying to eliminate fear altogether
- Please let us know in advance if your child is concerned about his or her appointment so we may talk with you prior to his or her dental visit. If your child would benefit from a brief “meet and greet,” we will be happy to schedule one for you so we can meet him or her without the stress of the upcoming appointment
How we keep it positive:
- We encourage kids to bring their devices for listening to music. We also have noise-cancelling headphones and a dental chair where children can watch part of a movie or show during their cleaning or procedure
- We will engage your child to help him relax. Questions about favorite activities, asking how old they are, or what they like to do with friends will help your child discover that we have a genuinely friendly, caring environment
- We will “tell-show-do” using simple words before we begin. We also explain what your child should expect—whether there will be loud sounds, vibrations or even a new taste or smell. We’ll let her see some of our special tools and she can even see her teeth on our computer monitor
- We also ask your child about any questions and answer them as truthfully as possible. Questions like “will it hurt?” are answered in ways that teach children how to describe and distinguish new sensations.Our goal is to convey that we don’t want them to feel any pain, however they might feel a little pushing or vibrations, and that numbness can feel like their arm or leg after they have sat on it for a long time.
- If your child feels pain, we do want to know about it! We will give your child a signal, like raising his or her hand, if he does feel pain or simply needs a break
- We will check in with your child frequently to see how he or she is doing
- We never use words like “needle” or “drill” but we choose gentle terminology for all our patients—children and adults!
- We can also help you determine if your child will do better with you in the waiting room or close at hand. Often children are just fine once we take them back by themselves, “just like the bigger kids…” and are more easily able to focus just on what we are saying to help them help us.
A few parting words:
- When dental care becomes routine, your child’s anxiety should diminish as she or he gets to know us and what to expect
- Hygiene appointments twice a year, paired with the latest practical dietary ideas (recommendations; suggestions) and supervised brushing twice and flossing once daily at home, will help not only help your child develop good habits, but help keep him or her from developing cavities and the need for restorative procedures.
If your child continues to experience anxiety, please tell us prior to your visit. We’re here to help give your family a positive experience every time!