How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist
Does your child have a dental cavity?
Over 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated cavity. You can prevent this by teaching your children proper dental hygiene. However, if your child has a cavity, it may warrant a visit to the dentist.
Unfortunately, this can be difficult if your child has a fear of dentists. It causes them undue stress before their dental visit. Does your child have a fear of the dentist?
Don’t worry; we’re here to help!
With this guide, you’ll learn to help your children with fear of the dentist. That way, their dental health flourishes, and they become more confident as adults. Read on and find out more:
What Is Dentophobia?
As its name suggests, it’s the phobia of the dentist. Take note; there is a vast difference between phobia and fear. You don’t notice the latter until it happens, meaning it won’t bother your daily life.
A phobia is an irrational fear of something. These are extreme fears that have a massive impact on your daily life. Experts classify phobias as an anxiety disorder, and at its worst, it can cause panic attacks.
Take note, around 2.6 million American children and teens have anxiety disorders. If your child has a fear of the dentist, they’re still likely to show up for their annual checkups. However, they will always be fearful, especially in the few days leading to the visit.
People with dentophobia may never schedule dental appointments at all. This means they will avoid anything related to dental care. This is an unhealthy practice, especially if it follows them to adulthood.
What Causes Dentophobia?
Your child has plenty of reasons to feel afraid of going to the dentist. As adults, you might think that this fear is illogical. Remember that your children’s fears are real for them.
The best way to respond is with compassion and sensitivity. Here are some reasons children develop dentophobia:
- Fear of pain
- Fear of the dentist
- Prior negative experience
- Noises that come from dental instruments
Take note; these are only a handful of reasons why children become afraid of dental visits. As a parent, your job is to talk to them. This conversation aims to isolate their fear and take steps to get rid of it.
How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist
Overcoming dentophobia is an ongoing process since it never happens overnight. However, it doesn’t mean that they can’t go to the dentist. Here are some things that can help your child overcome their fear of pain at the dentist:
Talking to your child about why a dental visit isn’t something to fear won’t do much. It’s especially when their fear evolved into a full-blown phobia. However, the only way to find out what’s troubling is by starting a conversation.
Always use a gentle approach when bringing up a sensitive topic. This allows them to feel that you’re listening to what they have to say. The best part is that it communicates your desire to understand and help them.
Regardless, be mindful of the things your child tells you. Do your best to understand what they’re saying. Never forget to ask questions to clarify things with them.
Children are receptive to roleplaying scenarios. Most pediatric therapists use this method to help children with their issues. It’s also great for developing their social and emotional skills.
Whenever possible, tell your child that you’re going to roleplay going to the dentist with them. Take turns playing both roles—the dentist and the patient. If you do this, you’ll help them develop a healthier perception of how dental visits are like.
With this, they become more comfortable with their expectations. However, this is impossible with children suffering from dentophobia. Never push your child into a situation they’re uncomfortable with.
3. Get a Pediatric Dentist
A pediatric dentist practices their profession only with children. This means they have specialized training in both the health and behavior of kids. It makes them the best choice when you’re looking for a dentist to help your child.
Pediatric dentists are more understanding of children compared to their general counterparts. You can also go to a family dentistry office to get the same type of treatment.
If your child had a difficult experience with a dentist, it might be time to look for a different one. This particular dentist likely contributed to their fears. Take note; this doesn’t mean that the dentist is bad since it’s likely more of a gap between them and your child.
Your priority is to prevent your child from feeling frightened by the dentist. This applies even when the experience they had seemed normal to you.
4. Word Choice Matters
If your child never visited a dentist, a good way to assuage their fears is to tell them what to expect. Choose your words since your wording can impact how they perceive the experience. If you use words like “painful” or “scary,” it can only contribute to their fear.
Instead, use positive words like “healthy.” The good news is that the dental staff also uses vocabulary that works well with children. With that, you can calm their fears before they take root.
5. Use Music
Music can calm people, especially when they feel afraid or anxious. During a dental exam, ask your pediatric dentist if your child can bring a music player. Make a playlist and tell them to focus on listening to the music while the checkup is in progress.
Helping Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist
Does your child have a fear of the dentist? Here are some tips to help your child overcome their fear of going to the dentist. Try these coping methods the next time your child needs a dental appointment.
Your child’s dental health should be one of your priorities, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Want to ensure your child’s health? Check out our other guides for more great tips!