Let’s be honest, nobody enjoys going to the dentist, and some of us actually go out of our way to avoid it. This of course isn’t a good thing, and it puts our sustained oral health at risk. As grown adults, you’d think it would be easier to realize the importance of visiting the dentist regularly and overcoming our fears, but somehow it doesn’t work that way.
Now imagine your young children, and what dealing with dental anxiety must be like for them. On top of that, dental visits are arguably more important for children, so as responsible parents it’s up to you to make sure your child stays up to date. Of course, that’s all easier said than done, because you don’t want to see your children suffer in any way, but dental checkups are a necessity. To make things easier for you as parents and for your children, let’s take a look at dental anxiety and how you can help your kids cope with it.
What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a powerful feeling of nervousness and dread, in this case, associated with visiting the dentist. There are many levels of anxiety, ranging from a slight unease to a debilitating fear which can make dental appointments a harrowing experience.
Here are some of the most common dental anxiety symptoms you need to watch out for in your children:
- Agitation anytime the dentist gets mentioned
- Increased heart rate and sometimes heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Full-blown panic attacks
What causes my child to have dental anxiety?
Common reasons for children’s dental anxiety include:
- They’re scared of pain
- Fearful of not being in control
- Uncomfortable with having their personal space invaded
- Trust issues
- A previous bad experience at the dentist
- Being away from their parents
- Fear of needles and other dental tools (drills, scrapers etc.)
- Known anxiety disorders
There are many other triggers, but these are the ones most commonly associated with dental visits.
How to cope with dental anxiety
There are many ways to feel better about visiting the dentist, and some will work better for your child than others. It’s important that you as parents, pay attention to how your child responds and be creative in your approach.
Communicate with your child
Sometimes the biggest fear of going to the dentist is not knowing what’s going to happen. This is why it’s a good idea to speak about the appointment, informing them with an almost step-by-step itinerary of how the appointment will go. If your child knows what to expect, they can better prepare themselves and realize there’s nothing to fear.
Show them that visiting the dentist is a positive thing
This is a process you can start early on with your kids. Read them fun books about dentists (they exist just for this purpose) and always put dental appointments in a positive light. Kids are like sponges with emotions, so if you’re happy and positive, they’ll likely be too.
Offer a reward
This might seem like a bad idea but visiting the dentist is a big deal when you’re a kid. Parents can help keep children focused on something positive by promising a reward like candy, a favourite meal or even a small toy after the appointment.
Keep you kid distracted
Keeping your child busy before and during the appointment can help alleviate much of the anxiety they might be feeling. That means talking with them, brining toys to the waiting area, asking your dentist to let them watch TV during the treatment and things like that. If your child’s mind isn’t on the dentist or what could go wrong, they won’t be as likely to get stressed out.
If your child has severe anxiety and it’s almost impossible to get them into the dentist chair without it being a traumatizing experience, your pediatric dentist might recommend a mild sedative or nitrous oxide sedation dentistry. Both options are aimed at calming young children and making them less aware of what’s going on. Nitrous oxide or a mild oral sedative are both great at keeping kids calm and are completely safe for use on children. Speak with your dentist about available options and what their recommendations are based on your child’s needs.
What happens if my child doesn’t visit the dentist?
Dental checkups and professional cleanings are vital for your children’s long-term oral health. Neglecting this area can lead to oral health issues like tooth decay and gum disease, which bring with it cavities, bad breath, bleeding gums, gingivitis and more. Most of these problems are easily dealt with if addressed early or needn’t happen at all with proper care. Children are notorious for having less than amazing home oral care routines so regular cleaning appointments are very important. Even if your child does have a great routine, it’s still not enough to remove plaque build-up and keep their mouth healthy (the same goes for us adults too).