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Addressing Dental Anxiety in Children: Techniques for a Stress-Free Visit

By Jacob , in Health , at April 12, 2024

For many, visiting the dentist is no biggie. But for those with dental anxiety, it’s a different story. This anxiety can lead to intense nerves or fear, especially leading up to and during the appointment.

In a study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene, 19% of participants reported high dental anxiety. And surprisingly, 8.4 percent said they’d missed appointments because of it!

If you’re one of those dealing with dental anxiety, there are ways to manage it before it starts affecting your oral health.

Understanding Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is when some people feel scared or uneasy about going to the dentist. This fear can come from different things like bad experiences before, fear of pain, or just being in a dental clinic. Understanding why someone feels scared of the dentist is the first step to helping them feel better.

It’s common for individuals to feel slightly nervous or anxious when visiting the dentist. However, dental anxiety is a more serious condition that results in a patient developing a deep-seated fear of the dentist.

Anxiety about seeing your dentist may stem from various causes, including:

  • Previous negative experiences at the dentist
  • Fear of pain
  • Embarrassment regarding your oral health
  • Fear of injections or anesthesia
  • Apprehension about being scolded for neglecting your oral health

Dental Anxiety in Children

In kids, signs of dental anxiety can start showing as early as 5 years old and can vary a lot in how bad they are. Research has found that 10% of kids and young people have had a really strong fear of going to the dentist.

A child with a mild fear might feel nervous, upset, or show signs of stress when they go to the dentist. But if a child has a really strong fear, they might have a tantrum or even make themselves sick just to avoid going to the dentist at all.

Sadly, when children are anxious about going to the dentist, they might avoid getting cleanings and checkups as they grow up. This can cause serious problems with their teeth that need a lot of treatment later on.

Avoiding the dentist just makes the stress worse. Now, they have to deal with the scariest parts of going to the dentist, like getting numbed or having a tooth pulled, which just keeps the fear going.

Other things that can make a child scared of the dentist include:

  • Not being ready for their first dental visit
  • Remembering a time when going to the dentist hurt
  • Feeling uncomfortable with the metal tools dentists use
  • Not liking the look or smell of the dentist’s office
  • Not going for checkups to prevent problems

How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of the Dentist

If dental anxiety isn’t dealt with early on, kids might skip dental care that keeps their teeth healthy and stops big problems from happening. Not going to the dentist makes cavities more likely. If cavities aren’t treated, they can cause pain and might need to be removed.

Studies show that kids with more dental issues tend to miss more school. So, what can help kids with dental anxiety? Just telling them to go to the dentist or to “get over it” isn’t enough.

Parents need to work with their kids in a focused way to help them get past their fear.

  1. Schedule Regular Dental Checkups: Kids who get anxious about going to the dentist should still go for checkups regularly. You don’t have to go every week, but try to stick to a schedule and visit the dentist every six months.
  2. Avoid Negative Reinforcement for Oral Care: Telling your child they’ll need a big dental procedure if they don’t brush their teeth might make them more scared of the dentist. This could make them not want to go to the dentist when they’re older.
  3. Choose the Right Dentist: Picking the best dentist for your child is key. Look for one who knows how to handle kids well, especially those who are anxious about dental visits. But sometimes, it’s not just about the dentist. Things like the office colors or sounds can also affect how comfortable a child feels.
  4. Bringing Comfort from Home: You can bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy to help your child feel better when they’re nervous. Before the appointment, call the dentist and talk about your child’s worries. Ask if it’s okay to bring the toy along.
  5. Find a Pediatric Dentist: If you’re looking for a dentist for your child, you can ask your regular dentist for a recommendation. Pediatric dentists have extra training, which helps them take care of all your child’s dental needs. This extra training can give you peace of mind as a parent. Plus, visiting a pediatric dentist can be more enjoyable for your child because their offices are designed with kids in mind, from the waiting area to the exam room.

The Final Verdict

If your little one feels nervous about visiting the dentist, don’t worry! Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry is a great option. They’re all about making dental visits fun and stress-free. With their cheerful approach, they’ll help your child overcome any dental fears and enjoy a healthy, happy smile!

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