Dealing With Dental Anxiety in Children

By July 27, 2015 Knowledge Center

By Vishant Nath DMD

The dental office can be an intimidating environment. This is true even for adults, who have some experience and rational for knowing the importance of going for regular dental visits. So you can imagine the anxiety it can cause in some children. Fortunately pediatric dental offices offer many options for calming anxious children.

Pediatric dentists have specialized training during their two-year residency, which includes various tactics for creating a calm, happy dental visit for children. Most pediatric dental offices offer enjoyable distractions for children, including television, video games, and child-friendly décor.

Pediatric dentists will have child-friendly jargon that they use to explain the young patients what will occur during the dental visit. Many will utilize the “Tell-Show-Do” method. An example of this would be to name a dental instrument, then to show how it works (possibly by placing against the child’s hand), then to use the instrument in the dental procedure.

Another technique that is used is called modeling. In this technique, an anxious patient is paired with a non-anxious patient of the same age. With any technique that is used, positive reinforcement is also used. Any time the patient responds in a cooperative manner, the dentist and staff praise him or her. Dental rewards are often given to the child at the end of the visit to further reinforce a positive experience.

There are a variety of different reactions that children will have in a dental office. The goal is to create as many positive experiences as possible to ease any anxiety that might be present for the child. It is best to begin creating these experiences at an early age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child have their first dental visit within 6 months of the first tooth erupting, or at the age of 1, whichever occurs first. These early experiences serve to introduce the young patient to the dental office. The first visit may only involve the dentist counting their teeth, but it can go a long way towards creating a healthy attitude for the child towards their dentist.

Imagine how much more smoothly dental visits will go for a child that only needs to come in for exams and cleanings twice a year. As a parent, you can help to prevent the need for dental treatment by instilling great oral hygiene in your child. The simple act of brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily can help to prevent your child from developing dental anxiety.

Studies show that parents with good oral hygiene habits pass these habits along to their children. So remember to practice what you preach and be a good role model for your child!

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