Nobody likes going to the dentist, but for thousands of children across the country going to the dentist can be a traumatic experience. Some dental anxiety is caused by dentists and hygienists who unintentionally scare and intimidate the kids. However, even if you send your child to the best kids dentist in the country, they might still develop intense dental anxiety that makes them reluctant to go back. Going to the dentist becomes a battle that involves arguing with your child, dragging them to the car, and driving them to the clinic while they’re screaming all the way.
It’s easy to dismiss this kind of anxiety as bad behavior that should be disciplined. The truth is, children have reasons for being scared of the dentist. Medical procedures can be traumatizing to children, no matter how minor they are. When you take your child to the dentist, it’s important that you help them have a positive experience that they’ll remember fondly, instead of a scary one that leaves them traumatized. Here’s some tips on making their next trip to the dentist a safe and comfortable one.
What Causes Childhood Dental Anxiety?
Before you can help treat your child’s anxiety, it’s important to know what might have caused it. At first, you might be bewildered. You sent your child to a children’s dentist who knows how to work with kids. Why would they have anxiety? Children process situations differently than adults, and even a simple thing like going to the dentist can be scary and traumatizing.
As Ask the Dentist points out, fear of pain can be a primary reason why your child hates going to the children’s dentist. Even if they don’t undergo any serious procedures, having your teeth polished, scraped and flossed can be an uncomfortable experience. Any adult knows that it’s no fun sitting in a dentist chair while the hygienist scrapes plaque off your teeth. If your child does undergo a procedure, like having a cavity filled, that makes the experience even scarier.
It’s also important to remember that children don’t have the same frame of reference that adults do. We know what’s going on when we go to the dentist, but children are too young to understand. In their minds, their parents drag them to a strange place where they’re trapped in a chair while bright lights shine in their faces and strange people stick sharp, painful tools in their mouth. Until they reach a certain age, they’re simply too young to know what’s going on.
Many children also feel anxious because they have no control over the situation. They’re simply told by their parents that they “have” to go to the dentist, with no explanation. And once they’re at the children’s dentist, they have no control over the strange, confusing ordeal that they’re about to go through. If their initial impression of the dentist is strange and frightening, they’ll hold on to that impression for years, even when they’re old enough to know what’s happening.
How Can You Manage Your Child’s Dental Anxiety?
In recent years, there’s been a great deal of research dedicated to making dentistry calming and pain-free, for both children and adults. A positive experience starts with you: the parent.
To start off, Turn Around Anxiety recommends that you keep your child informed so they know what’s going to happen. Describe the procedures that might be performed in their upcoming visit and explain that it’s a positive thing that will keep their teeth healthy. Your child will feel less anxious if they know what to expect from their visit. Don’t use language that might frighten your child, like telling them that the dentist will “scrape plaque off their teeth”–instead, tell them that the dentist will clean their teeth with their safe, handy tools.
On a similar note, if you’ve had bad experiences at the dentist, don’t talk about it in front of your child. They’ll absorb what you’re saying and be wracked with anxiety when it’s time to take them to your local Ontario dentist.
It also helps if you find a clinic that specializes in pain-free dentistry. These clinics work exclusively with children and are dedicated to making their visits as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Both the dentists and hygienists take every opportunity to reassure your child, make them feel like they have some level of control, and make the process painless and efficient. Your child might actually want to visit the dentist again, instead of dreading it, and your days of dragging a kicking and screaming toddler to the car will be over.
Some children’s dentists even have therapy dogs that the children can interact with during their visit. Wouldn’t you feel more enthusiastic about going to the dentist if you knew you’d get to play with cute puppies? A therapy dog stays with your child throughout the appointment and helps the child focus on the cute dog instead of whatever the dentist is doing.
What Should You Do When the Appointment is Over?
Your efforts to make the experience positive shouldn’t end after your child leaves the dentist’s office. While you’re in the car, reinforce to your child that getting their teeth clean keeps them strong and healthy, and you’re proud of them for doing so well. You can even reward your child with a small treat or a trip to the park so they feel like they have something to look forward to afterward.
Overall, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure your child has a happy, pain-free experience. Your child won’t be afraid to visit their Ontario dentist, you’ll have an easier time getting there, and they’ll build healthy dental habits that will stay with them for years to come. When it comes to your children, don’t settle for anything less. Look for the best kids dentist in Ontario that specializes in pain-free dentistry.