How to Manage Dental Anxiety in Children

Dentist showing child x-ray

It’s very common for children to be fearful or stressed when it comes to visiting the dentist. After all, many adults share those same feelings, so you can imagine how it can be overwhelming for kids sometimes. Here are some tips on how to help children manage their feelings when visiting the dentist and how to make every pediatric dental appointment a positive experience for your kids.

Be Open and Honest With Your Kids

It’s generally a good idea to be open and honest with children when it comes to dental procedures. It’s natural to be fearful of the unknown, so a child that understands what is happening and why it is happening is more likely to make it through the procedure without any serious problems or emotional stress.

When your kids ask you questions about visiting the dentist or what they can except, don’t shy away from answering. If they sense you are holding back or being dishonest, it could inadvertently have a negative impact on the way they approach the dentist that can carry into adulthood. Try to answer clearly and honestly, while also reassuring your kids that it will be over quickly and the dentist is there to help. Reiterate that everybody goes to the dentist, including their friends. Even their pets need dental care! It helps make the event more relatable.

Try to Understand What Is Triggering Your Child’s Fears

Due to negative experiences in the past, your child may be fearful or anxious when visiting the dentist. One of the best ways to help them overcome these feelings is to understand which fear is being triggered. Here’s a look at the most common fears that can develop in kids and how to help:

  • Fear of Embarrassment. Some children have very obvious dental issues, such as tooth decay or dental deformities, and feel self-conscious about it. This fear is especially strong with kids who have been teased about the issue. At this point, it’s so important to reassure the child that the dental staff are professionals and have seen every issue before. They understand that fear is a natural response and the child shouldn’t feel embarrassed. Try to find a dental professional who will continue to communicate with your child during the procedure to help comfort them along the way.
  • Fear of Needles or Injections. This fear is very common, even with adults. Knowing there is some pain associated with needles can be very scary for kids. However, professional dentists know the best techniques to make an injection as painless as possible. Oftentimes, it’s best to keep the needle out of sight by asking the child to close their eyes before the injection is administered. Computerized injections are also a great option because they don’t look like a traditional needle and can control the speed and pressure of the shot.
  • Fear of Anesthesia. Some patients are uncomfortable with the idea of being put to sleep and not being aware of what’s going on while they’re under. Others don’t like having a mask on their face. The best approach is to be informative and explain exactly what the patient can expect. Taking it slow and sharing the details of the procedure ahead of time can go a long way in calming the patient. If the stress is severe, dentists should always opt to reschedule the procedure rather than forcing a child, which may amplify the fear even more.
  • Fear of Pain. After hearing about painful experiences from other children or adults who’ve had similar dental procedures, it’s hard to not expect the same. However, most dental professionals are dedicated to making young patients as comfortable and confident as possible. Pain management is taken very seriously and, as always, everything should be explained to your kids, so they know what to expect before any procedure is started.
  • Fear of Panicking or Loss of Control. The idea of being trapped can be a helpless feeling. Being in a dental chair as somebody performs a procedure can induce those feelings, especially in children, that leads to anxiety and panic. Having parents present during the procedure and constantly communicating with the patient is an important part of keeping everybody calm. Dentists should also make it a point to let both the parent and child know the progress that’s being made throughout the procedure, so they understand it will be over soon.

Once you have a clearer idea of what kind of fear your child is experiencing and what is triggering those particular feelings, it should be easier to address them and ease their anxiety.

Find the Right Dentist for Your Child

As you can see, there are a lot of things that can prompt a child’s negative feelings towards the dentist. For this reason, it’s essential to find the right dentist for your family’s needs. If your child is particularly anxious about the dentist, it’s best to seek out a pediatric dental specialist who deals with children exclusively. You should also inquire as to what methods they use to help calm nerves and make every appointment a more positive experience. To help, here on some tips on how to choose the best dental plan for your family.

As a parent, you should also share any background that could give your dentist insight on how to best help your child. If they had a traumatic or stressful experience with a dentist in the past, let your new dental team know before any procedure is done. They may try a different approach or use a different type of sedation that will help ease your child’s anxiety. Overall, choose a family dentist who makes your child feel comfortable and confident to help build positive dental habits going forward and follow these tips to make the dentist less scary for your kids.

About the Author

Dentists in Las Vegas and Reno

Absolute Dental

Absolute Dental started in the Las Vegas valley over 16 years ago with a single office and has been providing industry-leading dental care to our communities ever since.

Now at more than 25 offices across Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City and growing, we remain committed to offering quality affordable dental care and patient education while providing a relaxing and comfortable experience for your entire family, from the young to the young at heart.

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