Just like adults, many children suffer from dental anxiety. This can lead to issues such as tooth decay if left unaddressed. Regular check-ups are important for maintaining good oral health over a lifetime. Helping kids to tackle their fear can help them develop healthy habits they need to maintain perfect teeth for a lifetime. We’ve got five tips on making trips to the dentist a positive experience for your child.
1. Explain what will happen at the appointment
Sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that causes anxiety. A few days before the appointment, talking in detail about what to expect from the experience can help. Children have big imaginations, so they can build up an exaggerated picture of the dentist in their head very easily. Take the time to explain each stage of the appointment, from what will be in the room, to what tools the dentist might use, and what it will feel like. Avoid stories of any negative dental experiences you may have had in the past, and keep your voice upbeat and gentle. Children pick up on your emotions.
Some children feel more comfortable if you have personally seen the dentist first. That way you are able to explain exactly what it will be like.
2. Tell your dentist about how your child feels
If you already know your child has a tendency to be anxious, please tell us! Here at Canberra Dental Care, we are experienced in helping nervous patients through their experience with us – especially kids! Our dentists will talk your child through every step of the appointment. For some children this is before they start, and for others it happens as they go along. And as for all our patients, they’ll be extra gentle when working on your child’s teeth.
3. Make it fun
Creating a sense of fun around going to the dentist can be great for preventing kids developing anxiety. There are loads of ways you can do this. Read children’s books and watch animated videos with your little one about visiting the dentist. If they see their favourite character getting into the chair with a smile on their face, they will probably start to see it as something fun. Role-play games where your child pretends to be the dentist examining a soft toy, or playing dentists with family or friends can add a touch of familiarity to their experience, so that when the time comes, they are more likely to know what to expect and have peace of mind.
The team at Operation Ouch has a great compilation of dental stories you can watch. Please make sure to watch it first to check it will help your child.
4. Bring along a favourite toy
Your child’s favourite toy can be a great source of comfort to them. Allow them to bring it with them to their dental appointment, and hold it while they are in the chair. Having something in their hands might help them to stay in the present moment, and focus on the feeling of the toy as a distraction from how they feel. We also have TVs in the ceiling which can be switched to a suitable channel.
5. Use simple relaxation techniques
Simple mindfulness exercises can help anyone to stay in the moment, and ease the mind. If your child gets nervous at the thought of visiting the dentist, teach them a simple breathing technique – breathe in slowly while counting to four, and out again, while counting to four. The key is to get their focus off their anxious thoughts, and onto their breathing. Encourage them to do this during the check-up.
Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary!
We have online booking which means you can book at a time that works for you. Alternatively you can phone during business hours and speak to our friendly staff. Whichever way you book, please make sure to tell us your child is anxious.
Helping children overcome dental anxiety