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Help Children Combat Dental Anxiety

How to Help Children Combat Dental Anxiety?

If your child is afraid of visiting the dentist, you can try to alleviate his fear using some simple tricks that can help reduce anxiety.

One of the easiest ways is positive reinforcement, where you promise to reward your child if he visits the dentist. This often works where your child will behave well during the visit and control his anxiety but never learn to overcome it. However, you must understand that the real reason that your child feels afraid of visiting the dentist is that he feels helpless and frightened of the dental instruments. Thus, it is vital that you take steps to combat the anxiety your child feels, and you help him overcome it so that he never feels afraid of revisiting the dentist.

Here are some steps that you can take to help your child combat dental anxiety.

Teach your child about the importance of oral hygiene

It is crucial to incorporate the importance of oral hygiene in your child and the requirement of following a good oral healthcare regime. One of these includes regular visits to the dentist. The dentist will ensure that there is no deposit of plaque or calculus at the base of your teeth.

Regular scaling of your teeth is a part of good oral hygiene and preventive dentistry. Removing plaque can help you avoid tooth infections, like gingivitis and tooth decay.

When you teach your child about all of these and explain the importance of good oral hygiene and preventive dentistry, you will find that he can overcome his anxiety about visiting the dentist. He can learn to evaluate the importance of good oral hygiene and that will help him overcome his dental anxiety.

Talk to your child honestly about his fears

When it comes to dental anxiety, you must be open about it and discuss it with him. It often helps to tell him that you, too, were afraid of visits to the dentist and what you did to overcome your anxiety. Some of the ways that you can discuss his dental anxiety honestly are as follows:

  • You can ask your child if he is old enough to identify the exact reason for his fear. For example, is he afraid of the needles, anaesthesia, or lying awkwardly with his mouth open on the chair? When you have identified the root cause of the fear, you can discuss it with him and help him overcome his anxiety.
  • If he is not comfortable with his paediatric dentist, then you can consult with the clinic if they can assign him another doctor. It is essential for a patient suffering from dental anxiety to build a good rapport with his dentist. This is all the more important in the case of children. So if your child is not comfortable with his paediatric dentist, check with the clinic to have another dentist look at his teeth.
  • If your child feels that the anxiety stems from the fact that he is not in control once he is in the chair, it is essential to make him feel confident that he will be in control throughout the appointment. You have to convince your child that the chair’s design for the patient is for the doctor’s comfort and not to make him feel helpless.

Thus, when you discuss dental anxiety with your child, you must assure him and tell him repeatedly that all of these are for his benefit. The anaesthesia is administered to reduce the pain, and the needles are used to help him become better. It would be best if you were comforting and encouraging him to overcome his anxiety.

Carry something that gives him the confidence for the appointment

When you visit the dentist, it is good to carry an item like a toy or a blanket your child loves and associate a sense of security. This will help your child feel comfortable even when he lies on the chair and has the dentist look into his mouth. This simple gesture can go a long way in combating dental anxiety. In addition, a simple toy that he brings from home will give him a sense of security and assurance. Sometimes, children feel alienated while lying on the chair with their mouths open. Moreover, the dental instruments too can be a cause of anxiety. Here the simple toy or the blanket can act as a diversion and even give them the necessary sense of comfort to overcome anxiety.

Role play at home to reduce the fear of a dental visit

If your child suffers from severe dental anxiety and you worry that he will not sit still when you take him to the dentist, it is good to have a role-playing session with him. Here you can have him play the dentist’s role, and you are the patient or vice versa. When he plays the role of a dentist, you can behave like a child who refuses to listen to the dentist and suffers from anxiety. This will give your child a clear idea of how difficult it becomes for parents and dentists to manage a patient if they suffer from dental anxiety. When the roles are reversed, you will find that your child is much calmer and will allow you to play the role of a dentist. This way, he can learn to overcome his fear of dentists, and your subsequent dental visits can become more accessible.

Thus, some simple steps to understand your child’s reason for dental anxiety can help you evaluate why he avoids visiting the dentist. It will also help you understand why he throws tantrums every time you take him to the dentist. Once you have understood the root cause of his anxiety, you can take steps to help him overcome it. For example, you can teach him simple methods by which your child can overcome his anxiety by himself. Otherwise, you can use simple tricks like carrying his favourite toy to make the appointment easier on your child’s nerves.

Author

  • Dr Peter El Shoura

    Meet Dr Peter El Shoura, your local dentist and Owner of Kellyville Smiles. Known for his gentle approach, Dr Peter excels in easing patient anxieties, offering customised treatments that respect each individual's pace and preferences. Dr. Peter holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery from The University of Melbourne, a Diploma in Clinical Orthodontics, a Fellowship in Implant Dentistry, as well as Mpharm(USyd) and Bmedsci(Usyd), highlighting his extensive expertise in dental health and advanced treatments.

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