Dealing With Kids Who Are Afraid of The Dentist: Tips for Parents from A Children’s Dentist in Fulham
Fear, anxiety, and trepidation around visiting the dentist is incredibly common in children. If not addressed, the fear can lead to negative associations around visiting the dentist and oral health, which have far-reaching effects and last a lifetime. We’ve worked closely with our specialist children’s dentists in Fulham, to create this informative and helpful post to help you understand and help your child with any hesitations they may have around visiting the dentists.
How Does the Fear Develop?
Humans are born with some in-built fears, which from an evolutionary standpoint were necessary for keeping us alive, think heights, loud noises etc. However, most other fears are learnt; they are picked up from the people around you who have impressed upon you that you should be afraid of something. This is the case with a fear of the dentist; if you have ever exhibited anxiety or nerves around a dental visit, then your child has likely picked up on that, they may have also heard from other members of the family or their friends that a dental visit is something to fear.
Fear can also develop as a response to a past experience. For example, maybe seeing the tools, hearing the sounds or undergoing an uncomfortable procedure on a previous visit has led to an increase in anxiety around the dentists. Misunderstandings or crossed wires can also worsen the problem, for example, if you have told your child to expect one thing and something else happens or if the dentist gets right down to work without any preamble, this can also dramatically increase the feelings of anxiety that you child has to deal with.
Start by Briefing Them on the Visit
Children that have a fear of dentists tend to fare better during visits if they can predict what is going to happen. Often a lot of their fear and anxiety lies in the unknown or the unexpected. They are much more likely to remain calm throughout the visit if they have been given an idea of what to expect from it. As a parent, you can help by doing your best to describe what will happen during their visit. You should use as much detail as possible, think about the senses, and describe the procedure or the visit with them in mind.
Open and honest communication can go a long way in alleviating their fears. You should also be encouraging this between your child and their dentist. Allow them to ask questions if they have them. You might also want to discuss a signal that your child can use if they need a break or want the dentist to pause the procedure. It gives them a greater sense of control over their visit and helps to build up the trust between your child, you, and their dentist. Any dentist who has experience working with children will work with you to combat their fears; after all, it makes their job easier too! For example, if you are looking for a children’s dentist in Fulham, then Fulham Road Dental is a great option; they have several dentists who specialise in treating children.
Be a Good Role Model for Them
If you all have the same dentist or dental surgery, then try to organise appointments together. This will allow your child to see you exhibit behaviours that you want them to model. Encourage them to watch you through the entire process and be mindful of your reactions to the dentist and the procedure. Talk to your dentist about what the dentist is doing and why. Smile at them and talk about how painless it is.
When you are finished, tell them about how clean and fresh your teeth feel. You can also be a good role model by striving for better oral hygiene practices at home. Educate them on the links between how they care for their teeth and the work that the dentist will need to do. Brush and floss with them daily and encourage them to adopt better habits in general, like reducing their sugar intake or drinking more water.
Practice the Appointment at Home
While you should have already talked through what they can expect, some children need a little more reassurance. Sometimes acting out or practising the appointment at home first can help. You could encourage them to play dentists to help them prepare for the visit a little better. You can do this by setting up a dentist’s chair and pretending to be the dentist, they can be the patient, and you can do a dry run of the visit. After this, you could even swap and let them have a turn. Then, when it comes time for the real thing, your child should feel a lot more at ease.
Comfort them When Needed and Distract When Necessary
For a lot of children, going to the dentist means being in an unfamiliar environment without anything to make them feel more secure or safe. Most parents stay with their children during their visit to the dentists, but they can’t be on hand to provide much comfort because they would get in the way. Sometimes a few reassuring words like reminding your child that you are right there and telling them that they are doing well is enough, but sometimes it isn’t. If your child has a favourite toy or a blanket that soothes them, you could always let them bring it with them to hold while in the dentist’s chair. Try to remain calm and do your best to make the situation as light-hearted as possible before, during and after the appointment.
Finally, Never Underestimate the Power of Positive Reinforcement
It is hard for children to recognise that going to the dentist has its own rewards like healthy teeth, a nice smile and preventing painful or damaging oral issues. You might want to implement a reward system of your own. Dental check-ups happen once every six months on average. You could use anything as a reward; it could be any sort of treat. For example, you could take them out for their favourite dinner or make them their favourite pudding. You could reward them with a small toy or some stickers. Rewarding them after each visit can help them to form positive associations with going to the dentist, and in some cases, they might even begin to look forward to it!
Let us know what your child’s favourite TV show is
Before your visit to see our child specialist let us know what you want us to put on Netflix – which can help your child relax during their appointment. We have screens on the ceiling! Our dentists have many methods to relax your children, and if it comes to it we can even use sedation techniques to calm your child.