*This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own.
For some people, going to the dentist can incite genuine fear. Particularly as a parent, having a child with dental phobia can be overwhelming, but not with these top tips…
Anxiety can come in many forms, and sometimes it can be difficult to understand. That said, one anxiety disorder which many people can probably relate to is “white coat syndrome”. Translation? Medical or dental anxiety.
From previous dental negligence, to just sheer embarrassment, the reasons behind dental phobias and anxiety are not always clear. That said, going to the dentist is a key element of ensuring your children remain healthy and hygienic. So, getting over a dental fear must be tackled.
If you’re on the hunt for some dental anxiety management for your children, it may be simpler than you think. For some top tips on how to help your children overcome, or deal with, a dental phobia, you came to the right place…
What is Dental Phobia?
Dental anxiety is, put simply, the fear of going to the dentist. This can cause people to avoid visiting the dentist altogether, until it becomes extremely necessary. It can even lead people to neglect their oral hygiene, sometimes to the point of self-damage.
For some, however, dental anxiety is just the tip of the iceberg; on a more extreme level is a dental phobia. This can cause people to completely avoid the dentist, and even driving past dental buildings can cause total and utter panic.
It may surprise you to learn that dental phobia is rather common. In fact, between five and eight percent of Americans actually avoid even just getting their teeth checked because they’re absolutely terrified of the dentist.
What Causes Dental Phobia?
A fear of the dentist can be caused by a number of reasons, some of which could include:
- Previous case of dental negligence, like misuse of anaesthetic.
- Hearing a dental horror story from a friend or family member.
- Past trauma, like sexual abuse, domestic violence, or PTSD.
- A fear that the dentist will cause pain.
- A fear of needles.
- The dentist can cause bad side effects to their pre-existing anxiety disorders.
- A fear of what the anaesthetic may do.
- A feeling of lack of control when in the dentist chair.
- Embarrassment about bad breath or teeth.
Naturally, many of these will not apply to your child, but it’s clear that dental phobias don’t just come from dental-related roots (pardon the pun). That being said, it’s very important that these issues are tackled head on before adulthood hits.
Top Tips to Help Your Children Overcome a Fear of the Dentist
Now we’ve gotten to the bottom of what classes as dental phobia or anxiety, and what may be the reason for it. For a parent, it can be distressing when your child exhibits a fear of something seemingly trivial, like this. So, here are my top tips for helping them overcome these fears…
1. Talk to Your Child About Their Fears
The first, and most important, place to start is communication. This is the best way you can attempt to get to the bottom of these feelings of anxiety.
If you communicate honestly and openly with your child, you may discover that the reason for their anxiety could have been caused by something significant to them. Perhaps a problem at school, something within the home, or something else altogether. At the end of the day, you won’t ever know the true reason if you don’t ask.
During this communication, it’s also important to remind them that a fear like this is completely normal. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and is even a prevalent fear amongst adults too.
2. Get Them to Write Out Their Fears
In some cases, the child might not even understand their fear completely. By getting them to write out exactly how they feel, and what they’re most scared of or about, it may be something you can tackle upfront with them.
You could even take this list to the dentist with you, and perhaps the dentist themselves could explain some of these fears away. Often, it’s being scared of the unknown that could put children off so, by talking things through with the expert, the fear may be addressed more directly.
3. Get to the Bottom of the Causes
This is where tips one and two come in really handy. By communicating with your child, you can try to get accustomed to the reasons behind their fears. This way, they become more approachable, and less confusing to both you and your child.
4. Counteract These Fears with Good Past Experiences
The likelihood is, you’ve already taken your child to the dentist before. Another likelihood? The experiences were really not bad at all.
Next time the fear sets in, try and remind your child of those times when the dentist was lovely. This should help them to replace the fears with positive experiences, effectively helping to push the fright away.
5. Find an Understanding Dentist
It’s important that your dentist understands your child’s fears so they can act accordingly. So, instead of just battling on with the procedure, they can be aware of your child’s reactions, and can stop and start accordingly.
6. Take Your Child to the Surgery to Ease Their Fears
Have an upcoming dentist appointment on the way? Take your child to the surgery beforehand to ease them in. Get them to greet the receptionist, and any other staff that walk by, and sit in the waiting room to get a feel of what it will be like.
7. Let Your Child Take a Friend with Them
Having a friend or sibling accompany your child to the dentist could help them with the waiting room and journey anxiety. By distracting them through chatter and games in the car and waiting area, this should help to ease the situation.
What’s more, with a friend there, your child may attempt to put on a braver face for them. This way, they can tackle the fear head on, without causing a scene.
8. Give Your Child Some Music to Listen to During the Appointment
Music can be extremely calming and distracting. With this in mind, by equipping your child with their favourite playlist before and during their time in the dentist chair, this may help them to feel a bit more zen.
9. Re-enact the Dentist Experience at Home
This is a really great way to make the whole experience seem more of a game. Children love to play games like families, teachers, or doctors. By getting your kids together into a room and encouraging them to play dentists, this may create happy memories associated with the experience.
10. Don’t Get to the Waiting Room too Early
One of the worst moments when doing something that causes fear or anxiety is the waiting. Whether it be waiting for an exam, waiting for some bad news or, in this case, waiting for your dentist appointment, this is usually worse than the experience itself!
Minimising the fear is one of the best ways to tackle it. So, just make sure you don’t get to the dentist surgery too early before the appointment, and the anxiety should have less time to build up.
If all else fails?
Dental phobias are no joke, and can seriously affect peoples’ lifestyles, when it comes to oral hygiene. So, if these ideas for dental phobia help don’t do the trick, there are some other dental anxiety treatment options. These include:
- Dentist anxiety medication: if the anxiety or phobia is detrimental, there are oral medications that can be prescribed to be taken one hour before the dentist appointment.
- Heading to a sedation dentist: there are even some specialised dentist surgeries where gas and air are administered to the afflicted party.
See! The Dentist Isn’t So Bad…
As we’ve seen in this blog post, dental anxiety and phobias are a real a debilitating problem. What’s really important is identifying these fears in your child, and tackling them head on before they reach adulthood.
I hope you find these 10 top tips for helping your child overcome dental phobias useful. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Or, in general, if you’ve had any experience in dealing with dental anxiety, I’d also love to hear more! Let’s get talking…