Toddlers and elementary school-aged children often suffer from dental anxiety. Your child may not directly tell you about their anxiety because they may not quite know how to put what they're feeling into words. However, if they are displaying these signs in the days leading up to a dental appointment, you can be pretty confident that they're feeling nervous and worried about it.
- Struggling to sleep or refusing to go to bed.
- Losing their appetite.
- Losing interest in activities they usually love.
- Asking you many, many questions about seeing the dentist.
- Crying for apparently no reason.
If you think your child may have dental anxiety, here are some tips to help you manage it.
Tip #1: Visit a dentist who specializes in pediatrics.
Many general dentists will treat kids, and certainly they have the technical knowledge and experience to do so. However, someone who specializes in pediatric dentistry often has a more positive demeanor and will be more accustomed to working with anxious children. They'll know how to describe to your child what is happening -- in terms your little one can understand. For instance, when filling a cavity, they might refer to the drill as the "Mr. Bumpy" and explain how it takes away all of the bad stuff. This will help ease some of your child's fear since they won't feel so "in the dark" about what's going on in their mouth.
Tip #2: Do your best to answer your child's questions.
For many children, a fear of the dentist is, to a large degree, a fear of the unknown. The more they learn about what to expect, the less worried they will be. So when your child asks you a question about seeing the dentist, do your best to answer it in a positive way. Here are some examples of common questions and answers you can use:
Question: Will it hurt?
Answer: It might feel a little strange, but the dentist will use a special medicine to make sure it does not hurt.
Question: Why do I have to go to the dentist?
Answer: You need your teeth to chew your food, and the dentist makes sure they stay healthy.
Question: Why does the dentist have to clean my teeth if I brush them at home?
Answer: The dentist uses a special kind of tooth brush to get the yucky stuff your toothbrush misses.
Tip #3: Let your child watch the dentist work on you, first.
See if your dentist minds if your child tags along for one of your tooth cleaning appointments. Children learn by example, and if your child can see you being "a good sport" about seeing the dentist, they may realize there's nothing for them to worry about. Having the equipment in their mouths and sitting in the big chair won't be as nerve wracking if they have seen you do the same thing without any pain or ill effects.
Tip #4: Read books about going to the dentist.
Visit your local library, and look for some children's books about visiting the dentist. Read one every few days when you're putting your child to bed. The books may answer questions that your child had about the dentist but was too afraid to ask. They will also make seeing the dentist seem like it's just another normal part of life -- like eating dinner or walking the dog.
If your child is showing signs of dental anxiety, don't be afraid to talk to your pediatric dentist about this issue. They can allow extra time for your child's appointment and explain everything extra thoroughly to ease your child's worries. For more information, visit a site like http://www.allaboutsmilesinc.com/.