Dental anxiety is a common concern that often begins during childhood. Some children who feel like visiting the dentist is a traumatic experience eventually become adults who may avoid the dentist altogether. Making dentist visits and procedures as stress free as possible can reduce the incidence of dental anxiety.
Start Early And Often
The earlier you start exposing your child to dental experiences, the less likely it is that they will fear the dentist. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children should receive their first dental exam before they turn one year old. At such a young age, much of the apprehension is associated with a different environment, lying still for a seeming long period, and strangers. Try preparing your child for their first exam by going over situations they might experience in an age-appropriate manner.
Have them lie on the bed or sofa while you look inside their mouth. You can both wear face masks so the masks the dental staff members will wear will seem less intimidating. Even as your child grows older, you can help them incorporate dental exams into their play by purchasing toys that simulate dental equipment and x-rays. Another problem that may precipitate dental anxiety is when children only go to the dentist if something is wrong. To avoid this problem, make sure they are attending regularly scheduled examinations and cleanings. This can prevent your child from pairing going to the dentist with a negative experience, such as one involving needles and fillings.
Distraction techniques are often helpful for children who are fussy in the dentist's chair or have difficulties with the sights and sounds associated with the dentist. With the availability of children's shows, audio books, and games on mobile devices, you can be use these things in the dentist's office to help soothe children. Ask the dentist on the day of the appointment if it is okay for your child to wear earbuds to listen to their favorite show or music. Most dentists will oblige if this means examinations and procedures go more smoothly.
If your child has special needs, speak with their therapist or doctor about the best methods to use when going to the dentist. You might want to determine whether there are dentists in your area that are specially trained to handle pediatric populations with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or emotional and behavioral concerns.
Carefully Consider Dental Procedures
As a parent, it may be difficult for you to determine which dental procedures are truly unnecessary, especially when you are overly concerned about your child's dental health. If your dentist recommends caps or crowns for your child, take as step back and evaluate the necessity of these procedures. In some cases, the procedure is inevitably a waste of money because they are performed on baby teeth that will fall out on their own in the near future. If you are unsure, know that it never hurts to ask for a second opinion.
Another concern that can initiate dental anxiety or exacerbate the problem is orthodontic treatments. The installation and process of wearing braces can cause significant discomfort as the teeth shift to a different position. Also, the social impact of braces may be worth considering. In many cases, children are wearing braces during some of the most awkward years of their lives, and this can make the social and psychological impact of braces worse. Unless your child has a significant speech impediment or other problem that can be corrected with braces, there is little harm in waiting until they are old enough to participate in the decision. When your child is in their teenage years, they might make the decision to wear braces now or wait until they are an adult.
Perceptions about the dentist and dental treatments are often formed early. To reduce childhood dental anxiety and possibly prevent a lifelong fear of the dentist, start acclimating your child to the dentist early. Make an appointment with a professional such as Hoffman & Karl Dental Associates, PLLC to get started.