How to Reduce Dental Anxiety for Your Child
According to Statistics Canada, 40% of the Canadian population has a strong fear of the dentist. If you or your child is afraid of the dentist, you are not alone. One of the benefits of bringing your child to the dentist early is that it allows you to shape a positive perception of the dentist for them—before they are exposed to any fear-based narratives about the dentist that they may absorb from peer groups, other adults, caregivers, or media. Collaborating with a good pediatric dentist to prevent and manage dental anxiety for your little one lays a strong foundation for good oral health habits for the rest of their life.
Dental anxiety in children interferes with oral health.
If your child is stressed about the dentist, they’ll never want to come for their regular dental appointments, which can have a serious long-term impact on their oral health. Without regular checkups and cleanings, your child’s oral health can deteriorate quickly without your awareness. This can lead to even more costly and invasive treatments later on, further exacerbating the experience of dental anxiety.
First impressions count.
Children are very sensitive, and they learn quickly from an early age. Visiting the dentist can be stressful for them if they are expecting pain or discomfort, or if they don’t know what to expect. By teaching them that visiting the dentist is a normal part of life and providing them with a positive first dental experience, you show them that the dentist can be easy and fun.
7 Ways to Reduce Dental Stress for your child
- When they are infants, talk to them about their teeth with an excited tone.
- Choose the right pediatric dentist to ensure that your child’s first experience with the dentist is a positive one.
- Talk about the dentist at home long before your child’s first appointment. Even if you think they are too young to understand, your attitude and energy around the topic will teach them that the dentist can be something fun to look forward to.
- Don’t keep them in the dark or surprise them. Let them know in advance that they will be visiting the dentist and briefly explain what happens at the dentist—tell them that the dentist is a friend who will look inside their mouth, cleans their teeth and makes sure they are healthy.
- If they are old enough, give them a chance to ask questions so they know what to expect. Be careful how you answer.
- Don’t lie to them. Find ways to tell the truth about the dentist while avoiding terms that might contribute to negative perception. Avoid words like “tooth doctor” (because for some kids, doctors are scary too), needles, shots, hurt, pain, or any dental terminology they won’t understand.
- Be aware of your own attitudes about the dentist. Your child will adopt your attitude.
What if my child is afraid of the dentist?
Bringing your child to the dentist can be challenging if they are afraid. We understand it’s not easy to see your child under stress, and you may feel guilty for putting them through it—remember that you are setting them up for a lifetime of good oral health! Sometimes the best you can do for your child with dental anxiety is to gently comfort them, let them know it’s okay to be scared, calmly ask them to trust you and reassure them that nothing bad will happen at the dentist. Congratulate them on being brave, and reward them afterwards for getting through it.
Nitrous oxide for dental anxiety
If your child is very anxious and needs treatment other than a cleaning or exam, nitrous oxide gas combined with oxygen is a safe and effective way to reduce both anxiety and discomfort during a dental treatment—even for kids! Sometimes known as ‘laughing gas,’ this mild sedative is inhaled through a nosepiece and helps patients relax in the dental chair without putting them to sleep so that we can properly tend to their teeth. This is non-invasive and the effects only last as long as your child inhales the gas. When the treatment is finished, your child inhales pure oxygen from the nose piece to flush the nitrous out of their system before it is removed. As soon as we remove the mouthpiece, the effects wear off within a couple of minutes.
We are here to guide you through your child’s first dental experience.
The dental care team at BLOK Dental Studio is here to support you and your young ones through both preventing and addressing dental stress and anxiety. Give us a call anytime to discuss your concerns, or to schedule an appointment for your child.