• Tips to Help Your Child Overcome Dental Anxiety

    on Feb 28th, 2018

Dental anxiety is a common problem that keeps millions of otherwise health-conscious adults out of the dental chair every year. And dental anxiety is often more intense for children. They’re smaller and more vulnerable, and the people they trust the most, their parents, have delivered them straight into the nucleus of their fear.  

If your little one is scared of the dentist, we can help. Here at About Smiles in Austin, Texas, we take children’s fears seriously and do everything we can to make sure they have a positive experience.

Read on to learn what you can do at home to help your child overcome dental anxiety:

Start routine dental visits as early as possible

The earlier you your child starts seeing a pediatric dentist, the better. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children have their first dental visit as soon as their first tooth erupts, and no later than their first birthday.

Early, regular childhood dental visits help your child get familiar with the dental office, feel comfortable with cleanings and exams, and establish a solid, trusting relationship with their dentist.

Control your own dental anxiety

If going to the dentist makes you a little anxious — and you know who you are — it’s possible that you’ve inadvertently transferred your dental fear to your child. Your child may sense your reluctance about going to the dentist and start to feel uneasy about it, too.

To help your child feel more comfortable about going to the dentist, it’s essential that you do your absolute best to control your own dental anxiety.

Help them prepare, but keep it simple

While you don’t want to spring your child’s impending trip to the dentist on them at the last minute, you also don’t want to tell them so far in advance that their anxiety has time to build.

Tell them about the appointment a day or two ahead of time, so you give them a chance to mentally prepare. You don’t want to include too much information about the visit, but you also don’t want to tell them something that may not be true.

For example, you don’t want to tell your child they’re only having a cleaning and exam if it’s possible they’ll end up having a minor cavity filled.   

Watch your word choice

When you’re talking to your child about the dentist, you want to use positive words. You might say, “The dentist helps make sure you have clean, strong, healthy teeth,” or, “The dentist is going to check your smile and count your teeth.”

Avoid talking about shots, drills, or pain, and let your child’s dentist take the lead on how to introduce a new dental procedure.

Pediatric dentists are experts at relating new, potentially scary information in a simple, child-friendly way. Instead of talking about drilling a cavity, for example, they may talk about what they need to do to get rid of that silly sugar bug.

Use play or picture books to ease their minds

For a toddler or preschooler, playing dentist ahead of an appointment can go a long way in helping them feel comfortable once they’re in the dental chair. All you need is a chair, a handheld mirror, and a toothbrush.

If you play the role of the dentist first, show your child how the dentist will count their teeth and then clean them. Don’t talk about drills or line up a bunch of other pretend instruments; just stick to the basics. Then, invite your child to provide dental care to a favorite stuffed animal or doll.  

Picture books are another helpful strategy, as child-friendly stories about the dentist can help them better understand what to expect.

Emphasize good oral care at home

Let your child know that going to the dentist is like having a really smart partner in oral health  who helps them have strong, healthy teeth and a beautiful smile for life.

Also make sure your child understands that their own oral care efforts make a big difference: Brushing twice a day, flossing, and skipping sugary drinks is the best way to make sure their regular dental exams are as trouble-free as possible.

When you bring your child in for regular exams, cleanings, and preventive care at About Smiles in Austin, you can rest assured that we have extensive experience helping patients of all ages manage dental anxiety.

Call our office today or book an appointment with our convenient online booking tool.

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