5 Ways to Calm Your Child’s Dental Anxiety

Lots of people have some anxiety about settling down into a dentist chair. Fear of needing painful dental work like root canals and cavity fillings can keep you up at night as an adult, to say nothing of when you’re a young kid!

It’s important for children to have regular dental checkups to ensure good oral health during their early development. If your child has anxieties about visiting the family dentist, there are ways you can help calm and soothe them enough to have a successful visit. Here are five great strategies to calm your child’s dental anxiety.

Make Dental Health an Everyday Thing

Exposing your child to dental health on an everyday basis is conducive to reducing stress and anxiety. Encourage daily brushing from a young age in order to establish good dental health habits, and talk about the role dentists play in keeping teeth clean and healthy.

Letting your child accompany you or your spouse to your own regular dental checkup is also an excellent way to encourage kids to see dental health as an everyday occurrence. Of course, not every doctor’s office may be comfortable with that, so be sure to consult your dentist or orthodontist beforehand.

Be Upfront and Honest

Even the most careful kids with the best dental health habits can sometimes end up getting bad news from the dentist. Managing your child’s expectations about what could happen at a check-up is important, and you need to be upfront and honest with your child well before they’re sitting in the dentist’s chair, shivering from fear and anxiety.

Give your child all the information he or she needs. Tell them that most dental visits are just check-ups and possibly harmless cleaning, but there’s always the possibility that they’ve got a cavity that needs filling. If your child needs braces, you can click here to go over possible treatment choices for your kid. You can also share your own stories of times you’ve had dental procedures, proving to them that they’ll be fine, and this can go a long way towards calming jangled nerves. 

Pay a Friendly Visit to the Office

Visiting a dental office for the first time can be scary to a child. They’re in an environment they’re not familiar with, being told to sit in a chair they’ve never seen before and having a stranger poke around inside their mouths. This can be a recipe for disaster, even if you’re visiting a pediatric dentist with lots of experience in treating children.

To alleviate these first-time visit fears, pay one or more friendly visits to the office in order to let your child familiarize him or her with the space. Introduce yourselves to the office staff, let them talk to your child and make friends, and then the next time you have to visit the office for a check-up, it won’t be such a foreign space for your child.

Avoid Bribery

We’ve all done it as parents – dangle a special treat to elicit good behavior. While promising something in return for a child’s acquiescence at the doctor’s office might feel like a good parenting strategy, the truth is that it could be counterintuitive.

Kids are smarter than they let on. Being offered something in return for “behaving” at the dentist sends the message that there’s a reason kids don’t behave there. Plus, offering a lollipop or other sugary treat kind of defeats the purpose of good dental health, considering how too many sweets can lead to tooth decay!

Practice Relaxation Techniques

For naturally anxious kids, it may be exceedingly difficult for them to tolerate a dental visit. If your child suffers from heightened anxiety on a daily basis, incorporating some relaxation techniques into daily routines can help not just with visits to the dentist but everyday events as well.

Deep breathing exercises are some of the best ways to calm anxious children. A combination of deep breaths and counting backward also tends to work well. Keep yourself calm and relaxed and your child will follow suit.

About the author

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Dr. Normand Bach received his dental degree from the University of Montreal in 2002, and completed a certificate of multidisciplinary residency at Notre-Dame Hospital in 2003. In 2008, Dr. Bach completed a Master’s Degree of Science and a Certificate in Orthodontics at the University of Montreal. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Montreal and is responsible for the undergraduate orthodontic clinic, in addition to maintaining a private practice limited  orthodontics in Montreal.