How Parents and Pediatric Dentists Can Relieve Childhood Dental Anxiety
Parents and dental care providers both play important roles in making a child’s early dental care experiences positive ones. Childrens’ fear of dentist tools, strange smells, needles, and pain is perfectly normal. They don’t know what is going to happen, and they may fear being separated from their parents or becoming injured. Here are several ways parents and dentists can help alleviate dental anxiety.
How Parents Can Ease Dental Fear
- Don’t show fear. Children can pick up on the uneasy feelings of adults; a fearful adult or stories of negative dental experiences will cause unnecessary anxiety.
- Answer a child’s questions without giving graphic details. Pediatric dentists are trained to explain procedures to children in ways that are less intimidating; let them handle more complex queries.
- Avoid using words that may trigger dental fear such as “hurt” or “needle.”
- Talk about the dentist in a positive way. Your child should view dentists as friendly doctors who do the important job of keeping teeth and gums healthy.
- Never offer a reward for going to the dentist; this enforces the idea that it’s a negative event.
The Dentist’s Role in Managing Dental Anxiety
Your dentist may do several of the following things to help ease your children’s anxiety, and make the visit a pleasant one.
- Talk in a friendly voice using simple words.
- Demonstrate procedures on a doll or another person first.
- Tell funny stories or jokes to distract children from the procedure or exam.
- Offer praise to reinforce good behavior.
- Use sedation methods such as nitrous oxide or oral sedatives to help manage extremely frightened children.
Early Experiences Matter
If your provider is not taking seriously your childrens’ fear of dentist appointments, consider looking for another dentist. Development of dental anxiety in childhood can lead to poor oral health and early tooth loss in adulthood, so be sure that your dentist takes steps to ease dental fear.
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