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Child Anxiety About Dentist Appointments

Child anxiety about dentist appointments is normal. Some children may vocalize worries about visiting the dentist ahead of their appointment. They may have many questions and also may express fears about experiencing pain or discomfort during their checkup. Parents often ask about strategies for preparing their children for their dental appointments and so it is worthwhile to explore some of these issues in order to give parents some tools to use in the days or weeks leading up to their visit.

Parents Set the Tone for Anxiety About Dentist Appointments

When discussing a visit to the pediatric dentist with your child, it is important to know that the words you use will set the tone of the appointment for your child. It is important to use the right language with your child regarding the dentist. One good strategy is to explain to kids that the dentist is there to clean or wash their teeth, much like they clean their face and hands before bedtime.

If you have older siblings in the family, it is also helpful to explain that they have gone to the dentist before as well. This creates a feeling of familiarity for your child in that the dentist is a location where other family members go too. Sometimes having an older sibling explain their visit to the younger sibling can help as well. If they received a toy during their visit, have them show it to the younger sibling so that they can look forward to a similar experience.

Dental apps for your phone or tablet

There are a variety of dental apps for iOS and Android that your child can download and play with in order to explore the world of dental health. Apps like Tiny Dentist or Toothbrush Timer are great for connecting children to dental concepts in an interactive and fun way.

The key principle here is that the dentist should be demystified for your child. If your child is confused about what the dentist is for, or what happens there, they are more likely to develop fears about their appointment. Having games and media related to dentistry for your child to interact with is a sure way to help them become more comfortable with what the dentist does and why dental health is important.

The importance of visiting a pediatric dentist

Visiting a pediatric dentist is crucial for ensuring your child will be receiving great dental care in a comfortable environment. Pediatric dentists are specialized with more years of training and with a focus on children’s dental health and well being. Since pediatric dentists only care for kids, they know how to properly communicate with kids during the appointment and how to deploy the best strategies for making them comfortable during the checkup.

It is best to have kids visit the pediatric dentist at around the time they receive their first tooth. Starting to visit the dentist early helps to accustom your child to the dentist and can help to foster a positive relationship from an early age. It is also crucial for detecting any early childhood issues that may impact dental health.

What to look for in a pediatric dentist’s office

One of the great things about pediatric dentists is that they also have offices that look nothing like the plain dental offices many of us are used to visiting as adults. With fun colors, play areas and take-home gifts, a good pediatric dentist will always aim to send your child home happy and with positive associations with their dental appointment.

Some pediatric dentists also have television screens above their examination areas so that kids can watch movies during the checkup to take their mind off any anxiety they may have about the appointment. This form of distraction can be beneficial for children who have expressed fears about the dentist ahead of time.

In addition, a good pediatric dentist should allow parents to sit right next to the child during the appointment. This helps to comfort the child and ensures that they do not feel alone or isolated.

Parents can also help to facilitate dialogue between the child and the dentist during the appointment. This can help the child to learn about the examination, what tools the dentist is using, and to answer any questions the child may have about their oral hygiene or the job of the dentist.

Tips for dealing with dental anxiety in kids

Here are some quick tips for helping to avoid, or ease, dental anxiety in kids:

  • Visit the dentist when the child is young so that they can start to develop a positive relationship with dental appointments
  • Visit the dentist every 6 months so that proper oral hygiene can be maintained. Children who experience dental issues (cavities, pain, etc.) are more likely to develop a negative feeling towards the dentist since when they do eventually visit, it is to remedy existing issues as opposed to a simple examination
  • Talk to your child positively about the dentist and use appropriate language
  • Download dental apps to let your child explore and learn all about oral hygiene so that it is not a mystery
  • Visit a pediatric dentist since they are trained and oriented towards dental care for children
  • Choose a pediatric dentist that has movies or television in the examination area so that children can take their mind off their worries

Talk to your pediatric dentist

Remember, every child is different. If your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety regarding their dental appointment, it helps to talk to your pediatric dentist first in order to ask them for advice and to let them know ahead of time that your child has some worries that need to be addressed once the appointment starts.

Parents should also keep in mind that they are the most influential source for their children’s attitudes. It is essential for parents to always use positive language about dental health and visiting the dentist so that their attitudes set the right example for their kids.

Written by: Dr. T Jay Robinson, DMD

As a father of three children, Dr. T Jay understands the importance of compassion and patience when treating kids. With more than a decade of experience, he continues to look forward to seeing each of his young patients – and helping them grow into healthy adults.

Categories: Anxiety

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