As parents, we want our children to enjoy perfect physical health and pearly white smiles. That is why we take all the measures to ensure the children remain healthy, happy, and active, including taking them for regular dental checkups.
Unfortunately, taking kids to the dentist can be challenging for some parents as many children are afraid of the dentist. According to recent research, 10 – 20% of kids around the world have some form of dental fear. Missing your child’s regular dental checkup visits can directly influence their physical well-being and oral health.
If you’re a parent whose child is afraid of the dentist, this blog is for you. Continue reading to learn easy and practical tips to make your child’s first dental visit a positive and anxiety-free experience.
What Is The Fear Of Dentists Called?
Scientifically, dental fear is known as dental anxiety, which is associated with a dental setting. For example, people with dental anxiety often fear the dental needle, the dental chair, the drill sound, and even the dentist themselves.
On the other hand, if someone is terrified of dental treatment and has irrational fears that prevent them from visiting the dentist, it is known as dental phobia.
How Can I Make Going To The Dentist Fun?
Kids like fun activities. If you can make their dental appointment a fun experience, there is no reason for them to avoid visiting the dentist. But how can you make it a fun activity? Here are a few tips:
- Introducing The Dentist to Your Kids – Imagine being a kid. You are asked to meet a complete stranger for the first time and sit on a strange-looking dental chair with instruments and equipment all around. That’s enough to trigger anxiety in adults, let alone kids. So, the best way is to introduce the dentist and their team to your child before the appointment. This way, your child will be familiar with them and will feel less anxious around them.
- Play Dentist – Before their appointment, play a game with your kid and let them become a dentist. Allow them to inspect your teeth and gums. This will let your kids know that dental checkups are merely to check their teeth and gums, and they will not feel any pain during the appointment.
- Bring a Toy Along – Kids feel safe around their parents and, of course, their favorite toys. On appointment day, let your child bring their beloved toy, teddy bear, or blanket and let them play with it while the dentist inspects their teeth. This will not only divert their attention but also allow the dentist to examine your child’s teeth without interruption.
- Choose Your Child’s Dentist Carefully – Whatever perception your child develops about the dentist during their early years will remain with them for life. So, choose their dentist wisely. An experienced children’s dentist should be friendly, gentle, and patient with children. Ideally, they should have obtained additional training or qualifications in treating kids, especially the apprehensive or uncooperative ones. HealthLink British Columbia offered some tips for choosing the right dentist for kids.
How Can I Calm My Child’s Anxiety From The Dentist?
It is normal for children to feel anxious going to the dentist. Maybe they have overheard you talk about your dental fears or have seen cartoons showing dental visits as a painful experience.
Regardless, there are ways you can help reduce your child’s anxiety. First, you should explain to them that the dentist will only examine their teeth and gums during a dental checkup appointment. More importantly, you should reassure them that dental procedures are not painful and that dentists and their team members are very friendly. The Canadian Dental Association offers a few practical tips on putting an anxious child at ease before their first visit.
How Can Dentists Help Reduce Dental Fears in Children
Dentists are trained in dental schools to treat anxious and uncooperative patients. Besides, many dentists undergo additional training to specialize in pediatric dental treatment. So they have many tricks up their sleeves to calm down apprehensive kids. A few of them are:
- Tell-Show-Do – Dentists use a technique called “tell-show-do.” This involves telling the child about the procedure and how it’s done. Then, the dentists let them hold the instruments, such as the dental mirror or probe. This reassures them that the tools are harmless or painless.
- Diverting Attention – Another technique is to divert children’s attention by letting them watch their favorite cartoons while dentists examine their teeth and gums. This allows the dentist to provide undisturbed treatment.
- Conscious Sedation – In the case of extremely apprehensive kids, the dentist may consider treatment under nitrous oxide sedation. This type of sedation will calm the children, but they will be conscious enough to follow the dentist’s instructions. Sedation is particularly useful when dentists have to perform longer procedures on kids, such as dental fillings, in a single sitting.
Children follow in their parents’ footsteps. They will do the same if you are a good role model and visit the dentist regularly. More importantly, proper counseling goes a long way in teaching a positive image of dental visits and treatment in your child’s mind.
Finally, choosing a kid-friendly dentist will ensure that your kid’s dental treatment, especially the first visit, becomes a positive experience that remains imprinted in their minds for life.
About the Author
Dr. Mehmood Asghar is a dentist by profession and an Assistant Professor of Dental Biomaterials at the National University of Medical Sciences, Pakistan. Dr. Asghar received his undergraduate and postgraduate dental qualifications from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). He is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Restorative Dentistry from Malaysia. Apart from his hectic clinical and research activities, Dr. Asghar likes to write evidence-based, informative articles for dental professionals and patients. Dr. Asghar has published several articles in international, peer-reviewed journals.