The Annual Dentist Visit - Handling Anxiety in Children
Even adults can sometimes be fearful of the dentist. Children may also share these fears and anxieties. For adults, we tend to be able to handle it better and overcome it without outside help. This may not be true for our little ones, so it becomes our job as the adults in their lives to help them overcome it and have a successful experience at the dentist. After all, the more pleasant experiences they have early on at the dentist, the better they will handle their annual checkups and any dental emergencies that they may encounter further on in life.
- Start them going to the dentist as soon as their first teeth start to show up. The more positive these early experiences are for them the better. Even if all the dentist does is take a quick look in their mouth, it helps to build a relationship and make it a good experience for them.
- Find a dentist who understands your child’s fears and concerns, Dentist’s that specialise in family and children’s dentistry will be more patient and tolerant of your child’s anxiety around the visit.
- Talk to them about what to expect but keep it simple. Small comments like “The dentist will just peek inside your mouth to make sure all your teeth are happy,” can be more than enough to help them understand that they have an appointment and the gist of what will happen. Overcomplicating it can scare them and make them fearful, or leave them with too many questions.
- Don’t talk about needles or pain they might experience while at the dentist. This can make it a scary or worrisome trip before it even starts. Let the dentist and assistants talk to them more in depth once they are there.
- Act it out. If your child has never been, playing pretends dentist and patient can help get them to understand what to expect and make it a fun experience.
- Prepare yourself for some less than perfect behaviours from your child. If you are stressed out and freaking out yourself, they will feed off your anxieties. If you approach it with the knowledge it may not go smoothly but you can handle whatever happens, it will help everyone minimise their anxieties.
- Do not take them to your appointments. This may seem like it’s counterproductive, but as adults, we face dental health concerns that come with aging and other issues. That last thing they need to see is the dentist “hurting” you. Unless it’s just a simple clean and check-up, it will only add to their concerns and fears.
- Give them a heads up a day or two in advance at most. Giving them too long to worry about it or grow concerned about it will only add to their stress level. Instead telling them a day or two ahead of time gives them the time to prepare without over thinking it.
We all have some level of anxiety about dental health checkups but hopefully, with these tips, you can help minimise the ones your child has and make their dentist appointment a success, and without fear.
Dr. Tim Hart has been practising dentistry in Chatswood on the Lower North Shore of Sydney for over 20 years. Having been raised and educated locally Dr. Tim Hart with Chatswood Dental Care is professional and gentle in his approach to patients. He is passionate about seeing adults and children maintain healthy dental habits throughout their lives.