Does your child get filled with anxiety every time they need to go to the dentist? Are you trying to help them cope with that anxiety rather than unleashing it? If so, then you need to learn all that you can about helpful exercises other parents have used.
Learning how to cope with dental anxiety will help set your child up for healthier oral hygiene throughout their life. If they never overcome it, they’ll find any excuse not to go when they’re older.
See below for several dental anxiety treatment options that you consider. Try to use the ones that you think would work best with your child’s personality.
1. Find a Child-Friendly Dentist
It’s normal for a child to have a fear of the dentist early on. Some are afraid of the loud noises, others are afraid of the intimidating-looking metal equipment some dentists use.
Whatever triggers them at a dentist will worsen if the dentist doesn’t do their part to console your child. An experienced and child-friendly dentist will know how to handle an anxious child and make them feel as comfortable as possible.
The dentist that you use is either setting your trip up for success or failure. There are other methods to help your child cope with their dental anxiety below, but none of them will work without a dentist that doest their part to make the child feel at ease.
Think through how your child’s current dentist handles them. Do they talk to your child and try to keep them occupied or just try to power through, even when your child is lashing out? The latter isn’t acceptable. Find a child-friendly dentist.
Set your dentist’s expectations by telling them that your child is anxious, they can plan accordingly after that.
2. Distract Them
Sometimes the best thing to do is keep your child as occupied as possible before, during, and after they’re on the chair receiving treatment.
Many parents use their smartphones (one of the handiest tools around) and give it to their child to watch a movie, use a child movie app, or just listen to music (with headphones).
If their anxiety is really bad and movies seem to be the only thing that consoles them, you might even go so far as to hold the screen up so that they can watch it while they’re in the chair.
Some parents might be afraid that this leans on the side of “spoiling your child”, but it’s not. For your child to cope with their anxiety, they need to first see that the visit isn’t anything to be worried about.
3. Set the Expectation in Their Mind
Everyone (not just kids) does better when they know what they’re getting into before stepping into an unfamiliar place. Your children are no different when it comes to the dentist’s office.
Before you step into the office, take a few minutes to describe to your child what the appointment is for and what might happen throughout the process.
If you’re unsure of yourself, then call the office ahead of time. Explain to them that you want to describe the appointment to your child and they will give you a description to use.
Try to avoid saying trigger words that could make them more nervous such as “pain”, “sore”, “scrape”, or anything else with a negative connotation to it. It’s all about spreading positivity on this trip!
Let them know that you’ll be there in the room with them the entire time. Be sure to communicate that they’ll be safe and that the dentist is there to help them, not hurt them.
4. Show Them Relaxation Methods
Despite what you may think, your child is never too young to perform a few relaxation techniques.
If they’re old enough, then you might try showing them how to perform deep breaths whenever they get scared or frightened. You can remind them to do this if they start to get worked up during the appointment.
If your child is a bit too young to do deep breathing exercises, then give them a few things to visualize to help them relax.
For example, you could tell them to visualize 4 hippos (or their favorite animal) playing basketball, or 3 mice with top hats performing a dance routine on a stage. Whatever you feel will make them smile when they think about it.
You’ll be surprised how well this works. The best part? You can use this strategy for any time that they get worked up or anxious, not just at the dentist’s office.
5. Start Them Young
There is an astounding difference between children that started going to the dentist at 3 years old (the recommended age to start) and those that waited a bit longer.
If they’ve been going since they were little, they’ll never know life without it. They’ll become more comfortable with the process and look forward to the rewards at the end.
It’s natural for a child that’s been going since they were young to develop more anxiety as they grow up. However, continuity is a helpful tool in these instances. You can simply tell them it will be as safe as it always is, which will go a long way.
Teach Your Child How to Cope With Dental Anxiety Today
Now that you’ve seen several ways to help your child learn how to cope with dental anxiety (something we all have dealt with before), be sure to put these strategies to good use.
Be sure to read this article for more information on when your child should have their first dentist appointment and why it’s so important to do so.
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