According to a study conducted in 2011, approximately 21% of children don’t enjoy visiting the dentist, with 12% being outright afraid of the experience.
If a child is afraid of the dentist, encouraging them to visit can be an absolute nightmare for a parent. But there are measures you can take to help them shake this fear.
We’re going to go into some noteworthy approaches that you can try with your child. That way, the next trip to the dentist will hopefully be a far smoother one for both of you.
If a Child Is Afraid of the Dentist, Try a Pediatric Dentist
A great way to help make a child’s trip to the dentist go smoother is to take them to a pediatric dentist.
Pediatric dentists are dentists who are specifically experienced in caring for children’s teeth. This means that they’re likely more used to handling children’s anxiety than regular dentists.
Choosing a pediatric dentist can take some of the weight off of you as a parent. You’ll know that the dentist you’re visiting can make strides to prevent your child’s anxiety themselves.
All pediatric dentists will have conducted 2-3 years of training in providing children with dental care. Their demeanor is often more relaxed as they’re accustomed to treating children.
If you don’t already see a pediatric dentist, this is the most important change you can make to help your child get over their anxiety.
Talk About the Problem With Your Dentist
Another good way of mitigating a child’s anxiety is to discuss it with your dentist directly. If a dentist isn’t aware of a child’s fears, they won’t be able to change their behavior towards them to help prevent it.
The best dentist for kids is one who is kept aware of the wellbeing of each child they are treating. All it takes is briefly taking them aside to let them know that your child is a little concerned about visiting.
You could even send a short email, or phone the practice before your visit. Giving your dentist a heads up will help them help you when it comes to your child’s fear of the dentist.
Talk to Your Child
As well as informing your dentist, you should talk to your child about their fears.
Dental anxiety can be complicated and might relate to a variety of different triggers. Your child might be afraid of the specific dentist you’re currently with. If this is the case, you could ask your practice to change your dentist or switch practice entirely.
It might be that they’re scared of the sounds of the practice. If this is the case, you could help them by giving them headphones and a story to listen to whilst they wait.
If you don’t know what exactly it is your child is afraid of, you won’t be able to prevent their anxiety properly.
This is particularly true during COVID-19, where many children have been disrupted. Make sure you’re attending a practice with strict measures in place to prevent your child’s anxiety as much as possible.
It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of this point does depend on your child’s age. The older they are, the more likely they are to be able to articulate their fears to you.
No matter how old they are, make sure they know they’re going to the dentist beforehand. A surprise visit could trigger any anxieties further. Make sure to also stay with them the entire time, so they can come to you if they need any help.
Use Some Positive Reward and Reinforcement Tactics
Another aspect of dentistry that pediatric dentists are particularly good at is rewards and reinforcement tactics.
If a child is given a small reward for going to the dentist, this can help mitigate their fears. It makes a dental visit a more exciting experience for them overall, as they’ll want to see what reward they get next time.
These can be as simple as small gestures like a high-5 from the dentist. Or, they could be small stickers that they can show all their friends at school.
These don’t have to be huge rewards, just a little something to say well done to your child for braving their visit.
Ask Your Dentist About Sedation
For more in-depth surgery or teeth problems, you need to talk to your dentist about any sedation options.
For complex procedures, sedation can help to ease a child whilst surgery is being undertaken. Not only does this help prevent their anxiety, but it also makes the process of surgery easier for the dentist themselves.
You need to be aware that sedation isn’t always the answer, however. Sedation measures aren’t typically advisable unless the procedure itself is extensive or complex.
The best way to understand this is to talk to your dentist about your child’s specific needs. They’ll be able to go over the options that are available, and you can both come to a conclusion together.
When a child is afraid of the dentist, the solution is a combined approach from both the parent and the dentist. If both of you are in sync and working with each other, the problem can be solved far quicker than if you try to handle it on your own.
This is part of a dentist’s job, particularly a pediatric dentist.
What Else Can I Do When My Child Is Afraid of the Dentist?
We hope the above tips have been helpful for you as a parent. But if you do have a child who is afraid of the dentist and still has more questions, the best thing to do is to contact our practice directly.
At Capitol Kids, we make every child’s mental and physical health during their visit a top priority. We work with parents to mitigate anxiety wherever possible and work hard to make every child’s visit an enjoyable one.
Make a call through our website homepage today, or if you’d prefer you can call us through our Facebook page.