How To

How to Help Kids Overcome the Fear of Dentists?

Dental anxiety is rated as one of the top 10 anxiety-inducing events in a person’s life. The fear of dental drills, the sight of the needles, of the sound of the suction all contribute to the anxiety.  These anxieties often lead kids and children to delay getting treatment and create more problems for them.

A dental visit is supposed to be scheduled for a child as soon as the first tooth erupts. But many delays this due to fear and here are ways to help kids overcome the fear of dentists.

7 Ways You Can Help Kids Overcome Fear of Dentists

Common dental problems a child could face

Early Childhood Caries– Night bottle-fed babies often have rampant decay of their teeth. The decay causes discoloration of the teeth and when the decay reaches the vital organ of the teeth-pulp, immense pain is caused. some kids may not be aware of decay and some cant communicate the pain they are in. So dental visit is a must.

Missing teeth– a child might have congenitally missing teeth which can only be observed by the trained eye of the dentist.

Parafunctional habit– Habits such as thumb sucking, mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, could affect the normal growth and development of a child’s cranial structure as well as teeth development.

Dental emergencies– Emergencies caused by sudden fall which cause breaking, chipping and expulsion of teeth should be taken to the dentist as soon as possible.

The ADA recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday. At this first visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques and do a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap. Many adults with similar anxieties may verbalize their fearful feelings in front of their children, creating a negative impression on dental treatment. Kids happen to imprint upon their parent’s fears and internalize it. Here’s how we can minimize dental fear:

1. Start young

For a child lying alone on a chair in a strange room, with unfamiliar noises and objects, all while a stranger wearing a mask is poking unusual instruments in his/her mouth is scary. When you take your child at a young age, only check-ups and preventive measures can be performed which are non- invasive and are easy to administer without causing pain to the child. Also seeing their parent receive treatment with ease helps pacify the child and desensitizes them.

Parents are often encouraged to bring their younger kids with elder siblings to engage them and use them for demonstrations. But make sure you and the elder kid are confident enough not to show anxiety in front of the kid.

2. Be positive but don’t lie

Parents should keep a positive attitude when discussing an upcoming visit, but don’t give your child false hope. Avoid saying that everything will be fine to pacify the child because if your child ends up needing treatment, the child might lose trust in both the dentist and the parent. Be honest and talk to your dentist ahead of time to let them know about the first visit.

Dentists often talk and play and follow up with checkups or minor treatment for the first visit, many even reward them as an incentive. DO not interfere while the dentist is talking to your child.

3. Pretend Play

Some parents even pretend to play with their kids before the visit. Like they act as the dentists and perform easy consultation and procedures to the toys so they know what to expect.

4. Positive reinforcement

Compliments and praise work as effective positive reinforcements for children. Applauding them for their bravery and good behavior during a dental visit can make a whole lot of difference in a child’s attitude.

5. Avoid words like “hurt,” “shots,” or “painful.”

Even adding these words with “only a little” is not going to help your child with their dental and anxiety.

6. Find a child-friendly dental practice or dentist

If your child is not resonating well with your dentist, find a dentist who has experience with young patients and their dental anxiety. A child should be comfortable with the dentist and the dental set up as well

7. Last but not least – Don’t give up

Some children take a longer time than others to get used to the dental setup. The key is not giving up. Focusing on the preventing measure doled out by the dentist be it brushing twice a day, rinsing after a meal, flossing, etc.

Happy parenting!

Hi, I'm Dr. Swati, a dentist by profession, closeted writer by passion. Mother to a 4-year-old daughter, I believe a raising a child is an arduous yet rewarding task, and one must avail themselves all the aide you get.

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