Is your child having a hard time going to the dentist without getting upset? They’re not alone. Statistics show that children between the ages of 8 and 12 experience the most anxiety when it comes to a dental visit. Of course, dental anxiety can happen at any age, so here are a few tips to help kids handle their fears.
Tip #1: Start Visits Young
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry agree that the first dental visit should be scheduled no more than six months after the first tooth comes in. Starting children at the dentist young also helps them feel more comfortable because it becomes a habit they’ve grown up with.
Tip #2: No Threats
It’s common for parents to encourage children to brush their teeth better and more often by threatening them with the cavities and dental appointments that will follow if oral hygiene isn’t a priority. We recommend avoiding these threats - they only make the dental checkup experience more frightening and stressful for kids.
Instead, offer rewards or positive reinforcement when children make healthy oral hygiene choices.
Tip #3: Talk It Out
One of the best ways you can help children overcome fear and anxiety about anything is talking to them. Let them know it’s OK to ask questions. Often a quick question-and-answer session may open the door to a deeper conversation that helps them work through some of their anxieties.
Tip #4: Help Them Relax
One of the biggest challenges children face in stressful situations is a lack of coping skills. Teaching your child some techniques for breathing along with other relaxation and stress-relieving tools can help them feel more confident in a stressful situation.
Tip #5: Visit in Stages
If your child’s dental anxiety is so severe that it has become extremely hard to make an appointment, consider doing it in stages. The first time, simply walk around our office, meet Dr. Buck and the rest of the staff, and let your child become comfortable in the environment. At the next appointment, have your child try sitting in the chair and talking with a hygienist. After a few visits, it likely won't seem as scary anymore.
If your child is struggling with dental anxiety and you’d like some more individual guidance or you need to set up an appointment, please call our office at 206-316-8286.