For some children, a visit to the dentist can cause lots of anxiety. Unfortunately, dental anxiety is a real problem for both children and adults. However, there are some ways you can help your child overcome their dental anxiety and make regular dental visits less traumatic. While every child is different and one approach may work better than another, here are some suggestions on how to help your child overcome their anxiety about visiting the dentist:
Work on your own anxiety
Do you have dental anxiety? If so, then the first step you must take is to work on your own dental anxiety. Unfortunately, if you are anxious about your child’s dental appointment, they will pick up on this anxiety and be more anxious themselves. By working on strategies to cope with your anxiety towards the dentist, you will be able to appear calmer for your child. As a result, they will be less likely to develop dental anxiety.
Explain What Will Happen
Oftentimes, children experience anxiety due to a fear of the unknown that leads them to imagine horrific scenarios. To prevent this from happening, take some time to explain to your child what is going to happen during their appointment. You may also want to explain that some of the dental tools will vibrate and make noise. This way, your child will know what to expect and there will be less things that surprise them.
Using play to build understanding is another great way to get them accustomed to regular dental visits. Having them play dentist allows them to act out being both the dentist and the patient, which can familiarize them with dentistry in a positive way. Not only will playing dentist help your child know what to expect, but it will also help introduce them to dentistry before their appointment.
Teach Relaxation Techniques
Another way to help your child manage their dental anxiety is through teaching child relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques are based on controlling the physical symptoms of anxiety, which eventually helps to control overall feelings of anxiety. Additionally, it provides your child something to focus on during their appointment.
Use Positive Reinforcement
With anything regarding visits to the dentist or dentistry, it is important to always use positive reinforcement to prevent dental anxiety. Using dental visits as a punishment or a threat for not brushing their teeth only helps to create dental anxiety. Instead, try using positive reinforcement through a reward system based around good dental hygiene and dental visits. Making dental visits work extra rewards can further signal to your child that dental visits are a good thing, not something to be feared.
Give Yourself Enough Time
Finally, be sure to allow for enough time to get to the dentist’s office. You and your child are more likely to be relaxed if you arrive for your appointment early, as opposed to running in late at the last moment. Therefore, you should also consider the timing of your appointment to make sure you won’t be rushing a tied and grouchy child around, since their mood definitely affects how well their appointment goes.