How Can I Help My Child Overcome Dental Anxiety?
Whether your child has gone for regular check-ups since infancy or has never been to the dentist, dental anxiety has a way of cropping up from time to time. Any number of factors can make children scared to see the dentist, but the good news is that we have tried-and-true methods to relieve stress and help youngsters feel at home. Say goodbye to pediatric dental anxiety with the following tips:
1. Visit a Pediatric Dentist, Rather Than a General Practitioner
It may be tempting to just take your child to the dentist you’re used to – you know what to expect there, you know they take your insurance, etc. However, pediatric dentists specialize in treating kids first and foremost; teeth are secondary. At Jenkins Dentistry for Kids, our board-certified pediatric dentists have a wealth of knowledge, training, and experience – and passion, to boot!
Pediatric dentists study an additional two to three years beyond general dental school. This further training helps us fully understand your child’s needs both in their oral health and emotional wellbeing. With this knowledge, we’re equipped to support your child through each stage in their development.
2. Validate Your Child’s Feelings, But Don’t Make It Worse
It’s important to make sure your child feels heard and knows that you have their back. You should acknowledge their fears and let them know it’s natural to be nervous.
However, be careful not to go down a rabbit hole detailing additional things to fear. Sharing stories about your root canal or tooth extraction will only exacerbate the situation. Keep it simple and upbeat, but don’t overpromise. Say something like, “I see that you are feeling nervous. I totally understand. It’s ok to be anxious – I was, too, when I first went to the dentist. But the dentist was so nice and took great care of me! I’ll be right there with you the whole time.”
Make sure to set a positive tone before, during, and after your child’s appointment. When speaking of your child’s dental exam, keep it light and uplifting.
At Jenkins Dentistry for Kids, we encourage parent involvement at every appointment. We usually prefer parents to accompany their child for convenience and easier communication all around. However, depending on the patient’s age and level of care needed, the parent can consent remotely. This works especially well for our teens who crave independence!
3. Use Kid-Friendly Vocabulary
Kids don’t need to hear the full run-down of what’s going on inside their mouth. Words like “tooth extraction” or “drill” can be scary for adults, let alone children! At Jenkins Dentistry for Kids, we do our best to keep the vibe lively and loving, and one of the ways we accomplish this is through our carefully crafted vocabulary. Here are a few examples:
Magic Juice (not medicine) | Clean out Sugar Bugs (not a filling) | Mister Whistle (not a drill)
Teeth Selfies (not x-rays) | Do a Wiggle (not a tooth extraction) | Sleepy Juice (not a shot)
4. Help Your Kiddo Mentally Prepare Themselves
When it comes to pediatric dental anxiety, it’s important to remember the main root of the problem: the fear of the unknown. To bridge the gap, check out our blog detailing what to expect at your child’s first dental appointment.
In order to feel confident and mentally prepared for their dental visit, your child may benefit from the following suggestions:
Read Books About Going to the Dentist
Reading stories about other kids’ experiences going to the dentist will help your child visualize their own visit. Below are some great picture books with cheerful, yet honest, storylines that will relieve pediatric dental anxiety and help set your child up for success:
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Just Going to the Dentist, Mercer Mayer
- Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit To The Dentist (Dora the Explorer), Christine Ricci
- The Tooth Book, Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss)
- What If You Had Animal Teeth?, Sandra Markle
- Daniel Goes to the Dentist (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), Alexandra Cassel Schwartz
Pediatric Dentist Role Play
Kids learn best through play – it’s how they understand the world around them. Many kids play “doctor”, so why not play “dentist”, too?
However, make sure to guide your child through this activity – it’s your turn to be the dentist first! Avoid making any scary drilling noises or other triggering sounds. Simply ask your child to lay back as you count and brush their teeth. Then it’s your child’s turn to be the dentist. Your little one will feel empowered and more at ease after knowing a little more about what to expect at their appointment.
If your kiddo has older siblings, be sure to have a chat with them separately and brief them on the plan. Ensure that everyone is on the same page and is ready to help, rather than taunt or tease.
5. Start Early, If Possible: 1st Birthday = 1st Visit
Along with the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), Jenkins Dentistry for Kids recommends that pediatric dental patients are seen at either the eruption of their first tooth, or by their first birthday – whichever happens first. Learn more on our blog.
However, if you miss that suggested window, fear not! Your child can begin dental visits at any age. The earlier your child visits the dentist, the sooner we can establish good habits and schedule interventions, if necessary. Early visits also help your child get comfortable with going to the dentist, which helps promote lifelong healthy oral hygiene.
Ready to Make an Appointment?
At Jenkins Dentistry for Kids, our team is committed to creating an environment that comforts and enriches your child’s dental health. We have over 15 years of experience treating and providing dental care to infants, toddlers, adolescents, and children with special needs in Lenexa, Shawnee, and surrounding areas in the Kansas City Metro.
Our empathetic and highly-trained team of pediatric dental professionals is enthusiastic about providing a positive experience each and every time you visit us. We have convenient locations in both Shawnee and Lenexa and are always welcoming new patients. Schedule an appointment today at Jenkins Dentistry for Kids!