How to Manage Dentist Anxiety in Children
Many kids are scared of the dentist, and the fear often stems from the unknown. Children do not understand what the dentist does — they often see scary imagery in a cartoon and develop a fear that can last well into their first visit to the chair.
We understand this fear. In fact, we have assisted many of our young patients through this difficult time. We never take it personally — we know once they get comfortable around us, their fears will go away. How do we help them navigate this new adventure? Here are some behavior management tips to decrease their fear of pediatric dentistry.
How Parents Can Assist With Easing Dental Anxiety
One of the most critical ways to relieve dental anxiety is to keep your child informed. Be honest and upfront when discussing the dentist. Tell them about their appointment a few weeks beforehand instead of springing it on them at the last minute. While you might see the latter option as giving your child less time to worry, the lack of time to mentally prepare for the visit will make it more difficult.
Allow your children to ask questions about what happens at the dental visit. Encourage them to talk about it to decrease their fears.
You could even schedule an appointment for yourself a few days before theirs and bring your child with you. Let them watch your appointment and see what is done. Introduce them to the dentist and hygienist. Then, when their appointment day rolls around, they may feel more comfortable going to an office they already know.
Explain to your child why going to the dentist is important and how healthy teeth can aid them in life. If they see a connection between health and the dentist, it may make it easier for them to get in the chair.
How the Dentist Can Assist With Easing Dental Anxiety
Before your visit, inform the dental office of your child’s fear. Discuss the best approach to making them feel at ease before the appointment, and follow the given advice. Here are a few other approaches you can try:
- Bring your child’s favorite book, blanket or toy with you to the office to give them a measure of comfort while they wait to be called in.
- Remain calm the entire visit, as children often take emotional cues from their parents.
- Reinforce positive behaviors with praise and affection throughout the appointment.
The dentist will also do their part to calm your child. Many dentists find that speaking kindly and being friendly can put children at ease. Talking about their favorite topics can also relax your child. Tell the dentist beforehand about their current favorite book or video game. It may spark a question that makes them forget all about their fears and instead engage in an interesting conversation.