The fact of the matter is that many American adults experience a lot of anxiety when it comes to the dentist. If adults are afraid, how do you think our children feel about a stranger poking tools in their mouths without any clear reason why? Dental anxiety, even though it can be powerful, can be overcome. There are strategies that can be implemented in order to overcome the natural fears that a child might have when going to the dentist.
One piece of advice that we would offer as pediatric dental professionals is to not assume that if you calm your child’s dental anxiety for one appointment, they will be fine for all other appointments. You may have to develop a system over time for every appointment and that’s OK. Below are some strategies to help your child overcome dental anxiety.
1) Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can differ from child to child but some that work best include practicing saying affirmation phrases like “I am safe. I am brave. Mom/Dad are close.” Other relaxation techniques could include breathing exercises, shoulder massages or meditation. The goal is to associate relaxation with the dentist’s office.
2) Bring a Favorite Toy
Most kids have a favorite stuffed animal or toy that reminds them of home and brings them comfort. If your child has dental anxiety, bringing their favorite toy or blanket to the dentist appointment could be just enough to take the edge off and relieve their stress.
3) Get To The Appointment Early
Rushing to get to your appointment can cause you stress on both you and your child. Don’t put any more strain on the experience than you need to. Plan to arrive extra early to give your child enough time to take it slow if they need to. Let them get comfortable in the office before they sit in the dentist’s chair.
4) Let The Dentist Know
The more your dentist knows, the better. As pediatric dental professionals, we are used to all kinds of personalities in kids. Giving your dentist advanced warning that your child is struggling with dental anxiety can give the dental staff the opportunity create as warm and calming an atmosphere as possible.
Contact Pediatric Smiles and Braces for questions about your child’s dental health needs.