Ease Dental Anxiety with Your Kids
One of the most important ways to keep your kids cavity-free is to see the dentist regularly. Routine checkups and cleanings are completely covered at no cost by most dental plans, so there’s no reason to skip a visit.
There’s one issue, though, that you might run into – kids getting spooked by the dentist. Children can have a more difficult time expressing their emotions than adults. While an adult with dental anxiety may leave their dentist appointment while in the waiting room, kids will show their fear differently. Signs that a child fears the dentist include nervousness, lashing out, general avoidance of going to the appointment. Studies indicate that the child will likely also have trouble sleeping the night before. Ease dental anxiety and leave the fear of the dentist behind. Check out our tips to help make their next appointment a little easier.
1. Start taking your kids to the dentist early.
The American Dental Association recommends children visit the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth or by age 1. Early visits give kids a chance to become familiar with the dentist and may help reduce anxiety down the road.
2. Lead by example.
If you’re nervous about the dentist, your kids might pick up on it and adopt the same attitude. According to a study in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, adults can transfer their dental anxiety or fears to family members. Make a conscientious effort to demonstrate a positive attitude toward the dentist while showing the value of regular visits. By modeling relaxed behavior, you can let your kids know there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Reshape their attitudes with the power of the page. Pick up library books that explain dental appointments in kid-friendly language. Popular options include “Curious George Visits the Dentist” by A. Rey, “Just Going to the Dentist” by Mercer Mayer and “Open Wide: School Tooth Inside” by Laurie Keller. To build even more positive associations with the dentist, try bringing their favorite toy or game to appointments.
4. Make your child comfortable with your dentist and their staff.
Stop by the dental office beforehand so your kids learn what to expect in a lower-pressure situation. Introducing them to the dentist and staff without the stakes of an actual appointment can help them feel more comfortable in the environment.
5. Play dentist at home.
Create a mock dental visit in your own home to remove any confusion they have about what happens in the dental chair. Pretend to clean your child’s teeth while explaining how visiting the dentist helps keep their smiles in tip-top shape.
If you’ve tried everything and your kids still get the heebie-jeebies in the dental chair, don’t fear! Try calming them down with some simple relaxation exercises. Instruct your child to inhale and exhale slowly and steadily. You can also try a technique where they tense different muscle groups as tight as can be, then release.
A positive, comfortable relationship with your dentist or your child’s dentist is extremely important to easing dental anxiety. Anxiety at any age can be reduced when you’re comfortable with those who are taking care of your teeth.