Dental anxiety and dental phobia is an issue for a good percentage of the population. It can disrupt our lives and our health in many ways. The sad truth is many parents pass on their fear of the dentist to their children without even realizing it. Overcoming the fear is possible with the right dentist and the right approach.
Why Do Kids Fear The Dentist?
Most kids are fearful of the unknown. Whether it be the dark, what lurks in the closet, or what their parents have taught them to fear. The first visit to the dentist should be done around age 1-3. The first appointment should be simple and fun. It is better to not wait for problems that need further treatment. Most of us would not be afraid of an oral exam, x-rays and a cleaning. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of this and wait until the child is older or has a dental issues that need to be addressed immediately. Children are also super perceptive of their surroundings and are easily influenced by their parents. Therefore the fears can be passed on down to the kids. If a parent is afraid and openly shows it, a child will see that and feel the same way. A positive outlook on dental care, a caring dentist, and at home good oral habits and diet ,will lead to a child free of dental issue.
Parental Supervision Is Important
Taking care of oneself can be a positive experience if educated properly on the benefits. Recent research has shown maintaining good dental care can keep our overall bodies healthy. Parents need to play an active role in their child’s dental health. That includes monitoring their child’s brushing in the morning and evenings until the child is comfortable and confident to do it on their own.
Most kids, will choose to do the fun activity over the boring one. If the task is not fun it will be rushed through or avoided all together. This directly applies to how well children brush and take care of their teeth. This is one area where kids definitely need our guidance to maintain a healthy smile.
It is recommended that you brush 2x per day for a minimum of two minutes each time. Two minutes can feel like forever for a child. To get your child to brush and floss for the proper time, try making a game out it. Set a timer for two minutes and challenge your child to brush until the timer goes off, or sing songs while brushing. Cute, fun toothbrushes are in stores everywhere. Choose one that’s small enough for your child to hold comfortably by his or herself, with a small, rounded head and very soft, polished bristles. An electric toothbrush is also recommended for little ones. An electric toothbrush makes it easier to use and makes them feel like big grown ups. Whichever brush they choose it should be replaced every few months, particularly for preschoolers who tend to chew while they brush. For babies, a soft finger toothbrush, or wet wash cloth are easiest to use for you and them. Some children’s toothbrushes also have lights that flash or music that plays which serves as a built-in timer. Set the timer again for two minutes for flossing. There are also fun flossers that make it easier to do the best job possible. Another tip would be to brush with your child — Stand side-by-side in front of the bathroom mirror and brush together. Have fun. Let your child mimic your brushing technique. Another helpful tool is the use of a plaque disclosing solution. This solution will allow you and them to see where the plaque is before brushing and what was missed after brushing. Then you can “help” them remove the last of the plaque. Once the color is gone, the plaque is too! The entire process should take just a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at bedtime.
Tips To Avoid Dental Anxiety In Children
–Introduction To Dentist. Set up a meet and greet appointment with your dentist. Your child can tour the office meet the staff and dentist. Get comfortable in the surroundings so it is not as much of an unknown to them. Another good way to get them familiar is have them go to the dentist with an older sibling or you and watch what happens. This takes away the fear of the unknown.
–Use Positive Words And Actions. Talking positively about your dentist and your own dental care will instill comfort in your children. It will allow them to relax further.
–Set Up A Rewards System. Encourage brushing and flossing and doing well at dental appointments by offering up a special prize over time. Kids love rewards. Establish a reward your child will earn for having a perfect dental examination, such as that new video game or doll they may have been wanting. Make sure they understand that brushing, flossing, and limiting sweets are all ways to reach their goal. You can even tape a photo of the reward to the bathroom mirror for daily reinforcement. Tell your dentist about the reward system, so he or she can also encourage your child at each checkup. If you are still finding cavities, diet may need to be looked at more closely, and a fluoride rinse may need to be added into the routine. Remember to schedule your child’s dental checkups every six months. Very important to stay on schedule and go when needed. You are laying the foundation for your child’s oral health and general health throughout life.
–Praise Your Child. Give them encouragement by telling them they are doing great and keep up the good work. This will encourage them to continue their healthy habits into the adulthood.
–Be A Good Teacher. It is important for children to know the Why and How of things. Same goes with dental care. If they are simply forced to do it without reason they will fight you. If they realize it is for their benefit or it is fun they will choose to do it. Be sure to explain the importance of brushing and flossing in simple terms kids can understand. For example: “Flossing is important because it removes cookies and food left between your teeth. Do you want tooth bugs stuck in between your teeth?” At your child’s next dental examination, ask your dentist to reinforce the proper brushing and flossing techniques.
–Find A Dentist That Works Well With Children. Not all dentists work well with children. It has become very commonplace to go see a pediatric dentist for the children and a separate one for the parents. This does not have to be the case. There are many family dentists who love seeing children in their practice as well. This makes it easier to schedule appointments as a family and also allows your children to see the positive experiences you are having. With the right dental team, dentistry can be an enjoyable experience.
Dental Anxiety Conclusion
Dentistry can be a challenging experience for children and adults. It does not need to be that way. With proper at home care and routine dental visits it can be a positive experience for the entire family.