For some children, their first dental visit is an exciting adventure; for others, it's a source of anxiety. Both of these reactions are normal. However, if your child is suffering from more extreme dental anxiety, or they are not becoming more comfortable with going to the dentist over time, then it's important to bring in some anxiety-fighting techniques early. The longer they associate the dentist's office with stress and fear, the more likely they are to develop a serious dental phobia that can last into adulthood.
Positive reinforcement is a useful technique for helping children get over dental anxiety. The key to effective verbal reinforcement – or praise – is to be as concrete with the praise as possible. Tell them exactly what they are doing that is good; perhaps they are sitting very still or they are keeping their mouth very open. This type of reinforcement helps them focus on the specific things that they can do to be a good patient.
It would be a mistake to think that an anxious child shouldn't be told about a dental appointment. In fact, knowledge can have a very real effect on anxiety; fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. Consider asking your dentist to spend some time at the beginning of each appointment explaining to your child what is going to happen.
Pediatric dentists in particular are trained to communicate clearly and comfortably with children, helping them become familiar with the dental tools that will be used as well as the procedures that will be carried out.
It's easy for a child to feel like they aren't in control at the dentist – especially if they didn't want to go to their appointment in the first place. By setting up a stop signal for your child such as having them raise their hand, a dentist can give your child a feeling of control over their situation. Even if this means frequent stops during an appointment, it can make a big difference in fighting anxiety.
Don't underestimate the power of simply being there with your child at the dentist's office. Physical touch, such as holding your child's hand, can have a greatly calming effect, and it's something that you can do throughout their dental appointment if necessary. If this is difficult for you – for instance, if you suffer from dental anxiety yourself – then see whether a friend or relative would be available to accompany your child to the dentist.Share
14 September 2015
Last year, my dentist told me that the last of my natural teeth had to go. At that point, we began to talk about the pros and cons associated with dentures and with dental implants. After learning more about each option, I decided to go with the implants. I did make the decision that is right for me. While it took a few months for everything to be in place, they have been great. I find them easy to care for, and people don't know that my teeth aren't real unless I choose to tell them. If you are facing a similar decision, let me help. I'll explain why I chose the implants and how things worked out for me. That will help you come up with the decision that will be the right one for you.