Sometimes, kids and the dentist just don’t mix. Kids either get antsy and impatient from the prolonged sitting time, or they get scared of one of the many tools the hygienists must use to clean.
While some dental anxiety is deeply rooted and cannot be solved so easily, most children should not have to go into a tooth cleaning appointment in fear of the dentist. Here are a few tips suggested by Philly.com for parents struggling with this very issue!
~ If your child has never been to the dentist before, anxiety is going to be normal. We all fear the unknown, children or adults alike. What can make a child’s anxiety worse is if their parent is acting equally scared or anxious. So stay positive and upbeat, and you can spread the calmness to your child!
~ Maintain a positive opinion of dentists — at least around your children. Contributing to the negative stereotype around dentists brought on by television (ahem, Seinfeld) and film (Steve Martin’s frightening portrayal of a dentist in Little Shop of Horrors) won’t make your child feel any better about going to visit the dentist. Remember, your kids are always listening!
~ Instead, highlight the positives of going to a dentist from your point of view in front of your children. It isn’t rocket science — you know you use this same psychology in front of your kids when you want them to eat their broccoli and brussels sprouts! Emphasize why you like going to the dentist to your kids — My teeth feel clean, My dentist is very nice, I really enjoy going to see my dentist, etc. Soon, your child might even ask you to go!
~ Set some guidelines as to proper behavior when in the dentist’s office. Plan a reward in advance so that your child is motivated to follow the guidelines. It isn’t bribery, it’s motivation! Make it someone small and easy that you can do right after the appointment.
~ Over-reassuring your child that the visit ‘won’t be bad’ will only scare them. This builds the visit up into something horrendous in their brains, and you’l only make it worse.
~ Comment when your child is doing well in the dentist’s chair. If your child acts up by doing something like refusing to sit in the chair, it’s better to not give this behavior as much attention.
~ If this does happen (your child escaping from the dental chair and attempting to run away) make sure to reverse it! If you leave the dentist without finishing the appointment (and on such a negative note) chances are your child will remember how the appointment ended next time they need to go in. You want to make this a positive experience so your child isn’t afraid, or even looks forward to seeing the dentist!
~ Of courses, there are more serious cases. If your child still suffers from extreme dental anxiety, you might think about seeing a cognitive-behavioral therapy expert.
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and current accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants. Check out his website for more information.