Children are scared of the dentist, with injections and drills cited as the biggest causes for concern. As many as 42 per cent of children suffer from some form of dental anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal of Dental Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. The study also found that fear significantly increases when children are asked about a treatment they have not yet experienced.
Helping a child alleviate their fears starts with understanding what has caused their anxiety. You can then take steps to familiarise them with the surgery with regular dental checkups, and teach them about what a trip to the dentist will involve.
What causes dental anxiety in children?
Common causes of dental anxiety include:
- Observing anxiety in parents
- Being predisposed to feelings of fear
- Previous negative dental experiences
How can you help a child overcome their fear?
Helping children to overcome their dental anxiety is important for their long-term oral health. Developing a good relationship with a dentist early in life means it is less likely that a child will avoid the dentist as an adult, and risk the health of their teeth.
With the root cause of their anxiety in mind, try these tips to improve a child's dental experience.
1. Explain that they are going to the dentist and tell them what to expect. Full details do not need to be disclosed if it is likely to make the child more nervous but an overview is helpful in alleviating fears of the unknown.
2. Allow them to become familiar with the environment by accompanying you or other members of the family to their appointments. Children are naturally curious and this gives them a chance to explore on their own terms.
3. Don't share any negative personal experiences. Children are able to sense anxiety exhibited by their parents. Adults with their own dental anxiety issues should try not to make it obvious.
4. Avoid negative language about the visit, such as 'hurt' or 'pain', even when being framed in a positive context.
5. Find a dentist who is used to seeing children. An unfriendly dentist or other surgery staff can make the situation much worse. They may use toys to explain what they are going to do or distract the child with stories, making the thought of future visits far less intimidating.
At City Dentists we are used to welcoming children to our practice and have many years of experience between us. Call 04 9784 964 or book an appointment online to ensure your child gets the dental care they need.