As a parent, you most likely schedule routine checkups at your child's pediatrician. While the different vaccinations and medications may be frightening to your child, you understand the importance of these doctor visits. If your child is one of the 30 to 40 million individuals with a fear of the dentist, you may be inclined to put off tending to their dental health. However, skipping the dentist due to your child's fear will affect their belief in dental care as an adult, as well. This can lead to problems with their bite, pain, and serious oral health issues. Using this guide, you can ease your child's fear of the dentist, ensuring they have a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums.
Discuss Your Child's Fears
Instilling the importance of dental care early on in your child's life will prevent a fear of the dentist, so it is best to bring your child to their first appointment as soon as their first tooth appears or before their first birthday.
However, if you have waited to introduce dentistry to your child, have a discussion a few weeks before an upcoming appointment. Depending on your child's age, you should be able to reason with them about their fear. Talk about the exam process in detail. Allow them to ask questions and give them honest answers, but avoid using words that will sound negative to a child, such as "drill" or "pain."
It is also helpful to schedule an initial consultation with your child's dentist. During this meeting, you child will be able to meet their dentist, hygienist, and other staff. In addition, your child will be able to see the examination room, dental chair, and various tools that will be used during their upcoming checkup.
Teach Your Child Relaxation Techniques
If your child's fear is still present the day of their appointment, consider teaching them a few relaxation techniques that they can use during the exam. Here are a few options to consider, but consult their dentist before using these techniques:
- Breathing Exercises – When your child becomes scared or feels stressed, allow them to perform a few breathing exercises. Fortunately, these simple exercises can be performed while they are in the examination chair. Have your child breathe in and hold their breath for 15 seconds before releasing. They should complete this exercise multiple times or as needed. Breathing exercises relax the central nervous system, decreasing fear and anxiety.
- Distraction Techniques – Many pediatric dentists offer televisions or tablets for children to use while they clean and examine their teeth. If your child's dentist does not offer these inside the examination room, ask if you can bring a tablet or other mobile device for your child to use.
Use Sensory Reduction Methods
Dental instruments for drilling, suctioning, and cleaning can be rather noisy, which produces fear in many children and adults. While these loud sounds are important for the operation of the tools, they can increase your child's fear and anxiety.
To reduce the noise so that your child can feel more comfortable during the exam, allow them to wear headphones over their ears. Headphones will reduce the noise while allowing the dentist and hygienist to perform necessary tasks. Wearing sunglasses can also help ease your child's fears. Although they do not block out noise, sunglasses can block the annoyingly bright lights above their chair.
For the treatment of severe discoloration or tooth decay, consider the use of air abrasion. Air abrasion sprays aluminum oxide powder onto the tooth, removing stains and heavy residue without any discomfort or loud noise.
Your child's fear of the dentist may be common, but it should not interfere with their oral health. Using these tips to reduce your child's fear, they will grow into adults with healthy, appealing smiles. For more information, consider contacting a professional like Kyle J Frisinger DMD.