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Helping Your Child with Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is a common problem for people of all ages, but it can be especially difficult for young children. They aren’t old enough to understand the necessity of their dental visits, and they are more likely to lose control of their emotions when faced with dental anxiety or fear. As a result, it is best for everyone involved if children are exposed to the dentist early and in safe doses that build up a positive association that will last the rest of their lives. Let’s look at how you can start helping your child with dental anxiety.

Understanding the Causes of Dental Anxiety

The dentist’s office is a new place with new people, and dental work can feel a bit invasive to small children. That’s plenty to illicit nerves in many youngsters. However, research shows that there is one factor that trumps all others when it comes to indicating whether a child is likely to develop dental anxiety.

Helping Your Child with Dental Anxiety

Data from a 2019 study showed that children (ages 7&9) were far more likely to exhibit dental anxiety if they had ever experienced a toothache or an uncomfortable dental procedure. Basically, the easiest way to protect your child from developing dental anxiety is to make sure that their teeth are well cared for, sparing them from dental discomfort in their first ten years of life. Of course it can’t always be helped, so here are some other great ways to build your child’s confidence up and gradually remove negative associations.

Early Exposure

It’s actually a good idea to take your child to the dentist long before they have their first appointment. You don’t want their first experience to be overwhelming, so just a quick trip into your Bloomington dental office will do. Pop your head in with your curious toddler and say hello to the front desk staff. If you have the time, take a few minutes to play a quick game or flip through a book with your little one. As long as they’re calm, give them a sticker or other high-value reward right before you leave.

Take a Tour Before Your First Visit

In the days leading up to your child’s first official visit, make sure you pop in one more time to reinforce all of those positive associations you’ve been building. If you’re there when it’s slow, you can always ask a staff member whether a mini-tour is possible. Family dentistry is about taking care of the whole family, so they want to make sure the newest addition to yours feels happy and comfortable.

Stay Calm and Neutral

Children look to their parents for clues when they don’t know how to react, so you have to be as comfortable and calm as possible. If you’re dealing with a fearful child, it’s incredibly difficult, but you have to try for them. In addition to modeling calm behavior, you will need to avoid potentially triggering words that could elicit an even stronger response. Words like “pain” and “hurt” may seem innocent enough when you’re assuring them that these things won’t happen, but you’re more likely feeding their fear.

It’s About Consistency

It is much easier to prevent fear than to overcome it, so exposing your child to the dental office regularly through their early years is incredibly important. Sadly, it’s an imperfect system. All it takes is one bad experience at a young age to set you back, so picking the right family dentist is a big deal. With the right team, you can ensure that your child has the most positive experience possible and the support to get through the times that are less fun.