6 Top Ways to Help Children Overcome a Fear of the Dentist
There’s no doubt that some dental procedures can be a little uncomfortable. However, for the most part, routine check-ups and dental cleaning are relatively painless and stress-free. Of course, if you try telling that to a child with a fear of the dentist, it can be like bashing your head against a brick wall. That’s why we’ve put together some tips for helping kids cope with a fear of the dentist.
Why are people afraid of the dentist?
It’s a common misconception that a trip to the dentist is going to result in pain and suffering. Of course, for some people, especially those who suffer from eroded tooth enamel (or dentin hypersensitivity), even dental cleaning can be quite painful. The human body often equates certain noises with something that’s scary or uncomfortable, and the dentist’s drill is definitely one of those.
However, in reality, if you require dental work that could be painful, most dentists can take measures to help you, including local or general anaesthetic. Still, it’s somehow part of human nature to fear the dentist, and it often starts at a young age. While adults can rationalise these fears easily, it’s not always that simple for kids. So, here are some ways to help children feel more comfortable visiting the family dentist.
Avoid using the dentist as a threat
When you’re trying to get youngsters to maintain good dental hygiene, it can be difficult not to fall back on the method of using fear as a motivator. While children should certainly know the consequences of not brushing, try not to say things like, “If you don’t brush, you’ll be going to the dentist.” This only helps to further increase your child’s fear of the dentist.
Rather, explain to children some of the things that might happen to their teeth if they don’t look after them. This way, they can learn about dental hygiene and the consequences of not brushing without also developing a fear of the one professional who can help with dental issues.
Don’t pass on your own fears
When babies are born, they don’t come out of the womb with an inherent fear of the dentist. These sorts of fears, like any fears, are often taught. Of course, you can’t help what the kids might see on TV or hear in the playground, but there’s no need to exacerbate their fears by sharing your own.
While this article is about kids, it’s true that many adults are also terrified of the dentist. If you’re afraid of the dentist as a parent, this is bound to rub off on your children. Rather, stay positive about the next dentist visit. You might not be super comfortable yourself, but try not to pass those fears on to your little ones.
Start dental checks from a young age
The best way to remove the fear of the dentist is to make check-ups a regular thing from an early age. Avoidance is the worst way to deal with something because the fear (rational or otherwise) builds up until it becomes a lot worse than it should be. But if visiting the dentist is just part of your regular life, it stops becoming something to be feared.
The reality is that most dentist visits are perfectly fine and pain-free. So, ultimately if your child has more good experiences than bad ones, they can see that there’s nothing really to fear. The obvious other bonus is that your kids will learn to place importance on dental hygiene from a young age, and this will hopefully carry them throughout their lives.
Play ‘dentist’ with your kids
It might sound a little strange, but children tend to fear things a lot less if they associate it with a little bit of fun. Most dentists who work with children are quite good at making them feel comfortable and allaying their fears. But another option is to make a game of the dentist.
All you really need is a chair and a mirror, and you can act out a dental examination with your child. You can even brush their teeth for them to make it more authentic! Then, when it comes to the day of your appointment, even if your child is still a little scared, you can comfort them by letting them know that it’s just like the dentist game.
Be careful with the details you provide
If your child is scared of an upcoming dentist appointment, you need to find the right balance of information to give them. The fact is, some dental procedures are uncomfortable. Even if it doesn’t hurt, kids aren’t really used to having strangers poking around in their mouths. Moreover, it’s a fear of the unknown that sometimes makes children afraid.
So, it’s important not to say things like “It won’t hurt,” because this can lead to a lack of trust if they do end up experiencing pain. It’s best to just give children the simple answers to what they can expect, and also give them reassurance that you’ll be with them the whole time.
Find a friendly dentist
Finally, if you or any member of your family has a bad experience at the dentist, it might be time to shop around. Many family and children’s dentists have a great demeanour and are experts at working with kids, whether it’s offering distractions with toys, playing cartoons or relaxing music. When you find a dentist who is great with your kids, stick with them for as long as possible, as this makes every visit that little bit more enjoyable.
Looking for caring dental in Parramatta?
At Parramatta Dental Avenue, we offer a warm and welcoming environment for all of our customers. Specialising in family dental services, we go over and above to ensure children are comfortable because we believe this leads to better dental health in the long term. When you need dental in Parramatta for the whole family, look no further than Parramatta Dental Avenue. Contact us today to find out how we can help.