You matter. Your kids matter. Your words matter.
You, as parents, have the greatest impact on painting a positive picture of the dentist.
Did you know?
Did you know nearly 20% of school-aged children are afraid of the dentist? That means one out of every five children experiences a real and fearful response at the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair. Anxiety is the human body’s physical and emotional response when confronted with a situation the brain perceives as dangerous — even if it’s not dangerous at all.
A lot of things are scary for kids simply because those at a young age can’t know or understand everything. A child may not have personally experienced a negative visit to the dentist. But if their friend next door describes having a cavity drilled and filled in great detail, the child hearing the story may develop fears of visiting the dentist. Regular dental visits are crucial for children because dentists play a critical role in helping children develop good oral hygiene habits. Dentists can also help prevent or treat small problems before they become big issues that will follow a child around for the rest of their life.
A parent’s natural instinct is to protect their child from real and perceived dangers — but what do you do when your child has anxiety about visiting the dentist? Rather than just skipping the appointment, parents need to work to understand their child’s fears. Use the guide below to develop a plan for easing a child’s fear of the dentist so they can safely and calmly make it through regular dental checkups.
How can I help my child enjoy the dentist?
We want to start teaching our kids about dental care from a very young age. We can use a wet washrag to clean their soft tissue even before the first tooth erupts. Once that first tooth erupts, it’s game on and we have to get that brushing routine down! Starting young helps desensitize babies to having things in their mouths, which will make everyone’s life easier at the dentist.
Will my baby be nervous at the dentist?
During the first year of life, your baby spends a lot of time at the doctor’s office, and most of those visits involve multiple shots. From your baby’s perspective, their doctor’s office and the dental office will feel quite similar. They are both unfamiliar environments with unfamiliar faces wearing masks and gloves. Some babies, by age 1, have already developed a fear association with anyone wearing masks and gloves, so it can be normal for babies to feel scared at the dentist. This is why we basically let your baby run the show and we only do as much as they allow us! We do everything we can to make it fun for your baby and show them we are not here to hurt them.
How can I ease dental anxiety as they grow?
First, we have to stop using fear tactics on our kids. Let’s face it, at some point your child will most likely need to have a filling done, but it doesn’t have to be such a stressful situation if we paint the picture in a positive light from the start. As a hygienist, I can’t tell you the number of times when cleaning a kiddos teeth, that a parent chimes in with something like “If you don’t start brushing better they are going to have to give you a shot in your mouth.” Or “I told you all that candy was going to rot your teeth. Now they are going to have to drill into your teeth to fix it!” These threats all paint the dentist as the bad guy, and when the day finally comes that a filling is needed, all those negative comments about us are going to come flooding back to your child. This fear of shots and drills is going to be all your child thinks about in the days leading up to their appointment. Why not change our verbiage and make something else the bad guy? Why not make the dentist the good guy!
Let’s start making “sugar bugs” the bad guy! When brushing your toddler’s teeth, tell them “If we don’t brush these sugar bugs away, they can make your gums hurt.” Or “If we eat too much candy the sugar bugs can put little holes in your teeth.” In both of these phrases, the sugar bugs are the bad guys, which can actually encourage your kiddos to brush better! When it’s time for their dental visit, tell them we are going to make sure they are doing a good job getting the sugar bugs out. If a filling is needed, tell them the sugar bugs put a little hole in their tooth and the dentist is going to fix it for them! This paints the dentist as the good guy and you the hero for getting them help!
How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of the Dentist.
If you’re wondering what to do about your child’s dental anxiety, follow these tips:
Schedule regular dental visits. While you don’t need to be there every week, make a point to maintain a regular schedule of dental checkups every six months. This regularity allows the child to become familiar with the dentist, the office staff, and the office itself. By providing a child with a familiar environment, they are more likely to develop a sense of security and safety when they visit the dentist.
Choose the right dentist. Choosing the right dentist for your child is also important. At Pax, we work well with children, especially children with dental anxiety. Our environment also plays a role in our picking the perfect dentist. We have calming colors and even better...a tv above them so they can watch their favorite show. We even have a kid's corner for them to enjoy before they even see us.
Emphasize good oral hygiene at home. Parents can reduce the likelihood a child will need dental procedures at a young age by emphasizing habits that will protect a child’s teeth and gums. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and eating foods that are low in sugar are all great ways to prevent the need for dental intervention.
We got you! We love to partner with our parents on kids' oral hygiene. Give us a call and let us walk you through our Pax Kids program. We are here for the entire family!
Ready, Set, Schedule.
Really, we can't wait to meet you! Not sure what you need? Come in for a check-up or for a teeth cleaning. We can take it from there and evaluate what might be the next step in your dental care. You can schedule by phone (301-863-8822) or by our online portal www.paxdental.com/schedule. See you soon. Our dentist are on standby waiting for your call....