Tips to Help Your Child Avoid Dental Anxiety

Imagine this—you turn the last corner towards the dental office when you suddenly hear a scream from the backseat. You turn around to see your child having an anxiety attack. You remember the last dental appointment when your child had a tooth filled. Your mind plays back the words your child spoke all those months ago when he or she vowed to never be put through that again.

You manage to park while your child screams and kicks your seat relentlessly. You realize that getting him or her out of the car would be akin to scraping chewing gum out of carpeting. You cancel the appointment and head home. Not the best way to spend an afternoon, huh? These tips may help prevent this situation from happening.  

Don't Make Promises

Don't tell your child that he or she will be fine and there's nothing for them to worry about. There may be a chance that your child's dentist will want to fill a cavity or pull a tooth during the appointment—both of which may never be "fine" in your child's mind. If you make a promise to your child, you may need to be prepared for the consequences that could happen if the dentist needs to break your promise. That means your child may have a difficult time trusting you and the dentist in the future.

Tell Them, but Not Too Soon

It's important to tell your child about the appointment with enough of an advance notice so they can digest the information, but not too soon so they can't dwell on it. Don't make a big deal of it. Just mention is briefly in one statement, then change the subject. Keep them busy so they don't have time to worry about what could go wrong. The best time to tell them is the morning of the appointment. The worst time to tell them is the night before the appointment when they have hours and hours to dream up life-altering scenarios of what could go wrong in the dental chair.

Practice Makes Perfect

In the comfort of your home, pretend to be the dentist and give your child a dental exam. Brush and floss your child's teeth while they are reclined in a comfy chair. Use a floor lamp or flashlight directed into his or her mouth. Get really close to look into their mouth just like the dentist would. Go to the dental office when there are no appointments scheduled. Without worrying about an appointment that day, your child may be able to relax and feel more comfortable. The dental office may not seem so scary to them the next time they do have an appointment.

Lead by Example

Studies have shown that children tend to feel the emotions their parents feel. If you have anxiety or fear of the dentist then your child may react based on your feelings. You'll need to keep yourself calm and protect your child from your emotions. Take deep breaths and slowly count to 10 when you start feeling anxious.

Previous bad experiences can cause anxiety. Dental anxiety and fear can impact your child's oral health for the rest of their lives. Once that anxiety and fear sets in, many people find it extremely difficult to overcome. This can lead to years of oral care neglect because they would rather suffer with dental pain rather than see the dentist. It's important to establish good dental care habits in your child. Try to avoid stressful situations and bad experiences by using the above tips. Speak with your child's dentist for more advice on how to help reduce his or her chances of developing dental anxiety.