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Is Your Child Afraid of The Dentist? Read Our Tips

Does your child tremble when they learn it’s time for their next dentist appointment? Do they tug at you, begging you not to take them?

You’re not alone. Dental anxiety is common in young patients, and it can lead to troubling outbursts and difficult appointment days.

It’s possible that your child will simply grow out of their anxiety, but hoping for that outcome isn’t the best way to squash their fears. Many patients grow up fearing the dentist, and continue as adults, falling into a vicious cycle of fear that leads to discomfort and oral health problems.

For the sake of your child’s short-term comfort and long-term relationship with their oral health, we recommend trying to ease your child’s anxiety – and the following tips can help.

The Cycle of Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety isn’t just harmless fear that goes away after your appointment. It can encourage poor oral hygiene habits, which can lead to further fear: this is known as the cycle of dental anxiety. Here’s how the cycle works:

  1. The patient is afraid of dental treatment

  2. The patient delays appointments due to their fear

  3. The patient suffers from dental problems due to their delayed appointments

  4. The patient eventually receives “symptom-driven treatment” – this means their appointments involve treating problems rather than being a simple checkup.

  5. Since symptom-driven treatment is often more costly, lengthy, and uncomfortable, the patient’s anxiety increases, and the cycle starts back at step #1

More and more research is being done around the idea of dental anxiety. In 2007, researchers in Australia surveyed thousands of dental patients. The survey showed that many participants demonstrated patterns of behaviour that align with the cycle of dental anxiety.

For that reason, it’s important to squash dental anxiety if you can – and doing so at an early age can prevent many problems down the road.

How to Help Your Child Reduce Their Dental Anxiety

Getting your anxious child to come to terms with an upcoming dental appointment might feel like dismantling a bomb. Fortunately, there are a few promising steps you can take, and we’ve listed them below.

These steps involve creating a positive relationship between your child and their oral health. It may take some time for these steps to work, so remember that the goal is to see an improvement each time an appointment rolls by.

Give Them Time to Prepare

You don’t want to see your child dread an appointment weeks before it is scheduled. To limit that, you might think to inform them of their appointment at the last minute. We don’t recommend this. Blindsiding your child with news of a nearby appointment will spike their anxiety, and it will also reaffirm their belief that dentist appointments are worth fearing.

Instead, give them as much notice as you have. This will help them trust the process, and give them time to prepare and pick up other coping strategies.

Practice Good Oral Health

Taking good care of your teeth is the best way to make a dental cleaning go smoothly. This is one of the best reminders you can give your anxious child.

Often, patients feel anxious because they think they have no control over their appointment. Encourage your child to practice consistent brushing and flossing, and help them visualize the appointment going well.

Teach Breathing and Calmness Exercises

There are plenty of exercises that can help ease any kind of anxiety. They’re easy, too — you don’t have to be a certified therapist to teach your kids these exercises. Here are a few:

  • Breathe in and out slowly, and count each breath

  • If your muscles are tense, focus on relaxing one at a time, for ten seconds each

Communicate Openly and Answer Any Questions

Confusion often leads to anxiety. For that reason, you should answer any questions your child may have, and give them honest, direct information.

Bring Comfort Items

It’s possible that your child views the dentist’s office as a foreign, scary place. We do our best to make our office feel welcoming, but you can alleviate some of your child’s fears by letting them bring one of their favourite toys or stuffed animals.

Remind Them That the Dentist is a Friendly Face

Ultimately, the dentist’s job is to help their patients achieve a healthy smile. Remind your child that their dentist wants them to be as comfortable as possible. You may choose to tell your dentist or dental hygienist that your child is anxious, and they will gladly take a friendly, calming approach.

How Our Facility Prioritizes Comfort

At Blue Haven Dental, we want all of our patients to feel comfortable when they walk in our doors. That’s why we’ve developed our facility to prioritize patient comfort.

We have:

  • A large, relaxing patient room

  • Toys and games, so kids can have fun while they wait

  • An approach to patient care that involves prioritizing comfort and listening to patient concerns – including anxiety

By helping your child overcome their dental fears, they’ll develop better oral hygiene habits, and they’ll be free of worry when an appointment rolls around. At last: no more fussing, begging, or trembling!