The first dental visit of a child may not be as easy as parents imagine. However, the same goes for succeeding visits, especially if your child feels anxious or nervous when meeting a health professional. Experts believe that dental anxiety is triggered by fear of the unknown or by stimuli like needles, drills, and other instruments on the dental chair. As a parent, you can protect your child’s oral health by making their dental visits easier and with less fear.
Why Children Are Afraid of Dentists
Fear of dentists among children is the result of several factors, the biggest of which is the parent’s own fear which they might have picked up early in life. If you experience anxiety when seeing a dental professional, this can rub off on your children.
While adults can also develop their own anxieties and phobias regarding dental visits, parents are encouraged to manage and control their behaviour inside a dental office to avoid influencing the child. Other factors that can contribute to a child’s dental fear are:
- The sight or feel of dental instruments
- A fearful dental setting
- Seeing the activity as a threat
- Stories of painful experiences from family members and others visiting dental professionals
- Not enough preparation for the dental first visit
Age, gender, and socioeconomic status can also have an influence on a child’s perceived dental anxiety and should be considered.
The severity of dental fear depends on the child. A child may experience overwhelming nervousness anytime — prior to the visit, while at the waiting area, or even in the dentist seat. Parents are encouraged to assist their children at this crucial first meeting.
How Parents Can Help A Child Keep Calm During First Dental Visit
Preparation is Key
Talking to children about seeing a dental professional and the role that they play in their health is crucial. Encouraging children feel that dentists are the good guys eases their nervousness. By providing children a “dental home”, they will be more at ease whether they see a dentist for a routine check or for an emergency visit.
However, it is not just the child that needs to prepare as parents should get themselves ready. The first dental visit of their baby can overwhelm adults too. Parents need to prepare the dentist by giving them comprehensive information of the child’s oral health history and overall attitude about being there.
Take Them Sooner, Not Later
Is there a difference between the first dental visit at age 4 as compared to the first dental visit at age 2? According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), parents can take their children to a dentist as early as 6 months from the eruption of the first tooth or when they are about a year old. The goal of dental professionals is to identify any problem at the onset. Here are a few reasons why it is worth following this advice by the CDA:
- Parents can find out that the brushing they taught at home is enough.
- Dentists can identify problems and propose solutions to fix them.
- Children would feel more at ease about their succeeding dental visits.
Be Careful With Your Words
As a parent, your words have a great impact on your children. The moment you tell them about the scheduled visit, give only essentials and leave other details for them to discover later on. If the child is inquisitive, answer their questions directly, but the detailed questions should be left to dental professionals. Dentists can describe issues and procedures to children in a non-threatening way.
If you, as a parent, had an unpleasant experience, do not tell your child about it. Using words that imply reasons to fear, like “painful” or “injections”, will influence them. Children are naturally going to have that fear but a dentist can deal with them so they can cope with their fears.
Comfort and Distract
Children would gravitate towards their parents, a favourite stuffed toy or an item that can give them comfort that they need. Ask the dentist if you can accompany your child inside; if this is not allowed, ask the dental assistant to bring your kid’s comfort item. The keyword is to provide your child with the most comfort you can.
Be a Good Role Model
As mentioned earlier, parents can pass on their fears to their children. You need to be the role model for your children, showing them the value of good oral hygiene. Teaching them to brush and floss properly is not enough; you also need to emphasize the benefits of dental visits.
Finding the Right Dentists for Your Child
Here are a few factors you need to consider when searching for a dental clinic for your child:
According to a study, one primary factor children base their judgement on is the way their dentist looks. They often analyze the words, movement, and gestures of professionals during their appointment. Dentists who look less friendly and unwelcoming can incite fear; whereas one who looks professional (i.e. properly dressed in a traditional white coat) and has a friendly outlook makes the surroundings seem less threatening to children.
Patients cope better when they establish a friendly relationship with their dentists. It becomes easier for them to deal with the sight of stimuli like anesthetic needles, the sound of drills and other tools, and even the sensation of a dental handpiece inside .their mouths.
2.Welcoming Dental Clinic
Dental centres do not have to be all in white since this can turn off children and add to their fear. Instead, a dental clinic can have treats for children to entertain them while waiting and to help calm their nerves. A family dental clinic with toys, books, games, and even furniture for kids make them a top choice of parents.
3.Practice Behavioral Techniques
A pediatric or family dentist that has experience in treating children knows how to address dental anxiety issues. Parents should not hesitate to ask how their chosen dental professionals manage difficult patients.
Parents must teach children proper oral health as this can affect their overall wellness. The best oral practices entail regular check-ups with dental professionals. The sooner children are taken to a dental clinic, the lesser the future cost of dental visit will be.
If you are looking for a dental clinic for your child’s first check-up, Cosmo Dental Centre is here for you. Our main goal is to provide diagnosis of dental problems, treatment, and educating patients of the best practices to maintain their dental health. Our office is located at 373 Clarke Road, London, Ontario, N5W 5G4. You may also call us at (519) 659-2767 or fax (866) 525-1391.