Preventing Dental Anxiety in Children

Dental anxiety is quite common for children. Left unaddressed, dental anxiety can continue into adulthood and prevent someone from going to the dentist.

Dental anxiety is more common than you might expect. In fact, more than a third of people in the United States have a fear of dental treatment. More than one in ten have an extreme fear of the dentist.

Your pediatric dentist at Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics is glad to share strategies to help your child avoid dental anxiety and have a positive dental experience.

What is Dental Anxiety?

People with dental anxiety feel fear or stress whenever they are in a dentist’s office. Some even experience anxiety just thinking about going to the dentist. Some people with dental anxiety worry about needles, while others stress about pain. Other concerns include bleeding, choking, or that the anesthesia will not work. These fears can delay someone from getting the dental care they need for a healthy smile.

If ignored, dental anxiety can turn into dental phobia, which is more severe and less common than dental anxiety. Someone with dental phobia may avoid the dentist altogether, and not seek help even if they are in severe pain or are losing a tooth.

Why is My Child Afraid of the Dentist?

Dental anxiety often starts in childhood. Many children do not know what to expect when they visit a dentist, especially if they do not go to the dentist regularly. Other children develop dental anxiety only after a parent or other adult suggests that going to the dentist is scary. A few kids are just naturally anxious.

Some children develop dental anxiety after having a negative experience at a dental appointment. Having a bad experience at the dentist used to be more common, back before the days of painless dental procedures. Fortunately, modern pediatric dentistry uses advanced tools, medicines, and techniques that make the experience as painless and enjoyable as possible.

Strategies to Help Your Child have a Positive Experience at the Dentist’s Office

Start early

A child should have their first dentist appointment by the time they are 12 months old or younger. This first appointment gives the pediatric dentist an opportunity to spot problems early, while they are easiest to treat. Starting dental visits early can also help children become familiar with the environment of a dentist’s office, so they aren’t so nervous when they visit the dentist later in life.

Use positive language when talking about the dentist or dentistry

Children listen closely when adults talk about scary experiences – using positive language when talking about dentists and dental procedures can help children realize there is nothing to fear in a dentist’s office.

Provide useful information

Talk to your child about what they can expect during their dental visit. This information will help your child feel more prepared and less anxious.

Use distraction techniques

Bring your child’s favorite toy or play your child’s favorite music. Distraction techniques help patients of all ages feel more relaxed during their dental visit.

Use sedation

Dentists now offer sedation, which helps your child feel calm. Sedation is especially helpful for complex or lengthy procedures.

Address your own dental anxiety

Children take cues from their parents, especially when it comes to stressful situations – if you have dental anxiety, you may be subconsciously passing it on to your kids.

Talk to your child’s dentist

If your child is anxious about going to the dentist, consult with your child’s dentist. Pediatric dentists are very familiar with dental anxiety in children, and will take special measures to help their young patients feel calm and relaxed.

Schedule Your Child’s Next Appointment

For more information on dental anxiety in children, and for ways to promote a positive dental experience in your children, consult Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics. Our dentists are dedicated to providing children of all ages with quality dental care in a positive, gentle, and caring environment. We offer preventative care, regular dental exams, restorative care, cosmetic dentistry, sedation dentistry, early and interceptive orthodontic care, orthodontics-comprehensive care for adolescents and adults, emergency care, teeth cleaning, sealants, fillings, and mouth guards.