If your child is a first-timer, the dental office can be a strange, unfamiliar territory. And terribly scary. There’s the anticipation of the uncertain, for one. Not to mention the scary dentist’s tools. It’s no surprise, then, that a good number of schoolchildren are afraid to go to the dentist. Fortunately, there are tips for managing dental anxiety in children.
One thing to note when dealing with this, however, is that the issue may be more multifaceted than you think. Dealing with anxious children in the office still poses a formidable challenge to any dental practitioner. And a patient in a state of anxiety can cause some complications during the procedure. With the right strategy, however, dental practitioners can turn the situation around for them and their patients.
That said, here are some tips for managing dental anxiety in children:
Use distraction strategies to keep the nerves at bay on the appointment day
If your child is nervous the day itself, you might not have enough time to prepare them for the experience ahead. Fortunately, there’s still a slew of things you can do to make the trip less intimidating for your kids.
The first step begins at the dentist’s office. If you’re a dental practitioner, you might want to consider placing toys in the waiting lounge for kids to play with. These toys can also serve as a distraction or a source of comfort for them while they’re at the dental chair. Additionally, knowing how to engage with children is a great skill to have in these situations, regardless if you’ve been pediatrically trained or not. How you talk to a child during the procedure can also significantly lower their stress.
Positive reinforcement can also be beneficial in these cases. Giving your young patients something to look forward to after the procedure can color the experience more pleasant for them. And if all goes well afterward, they can serve as a reminder of the experience, making the next appointment go a lot smoother.
Prep them before the appointment for a lasting impact
If you still have time before schedule, you can take it as an opportunity to get your child excited about the visit. We previously talked about the ways you can make your child’s dental visit a success. The technique lies in building anticipation. Once your kids know what to expect, the anxiety that comes with uncertainty disappears. Here’s what you can do in a nutshell:
- Play-act their dental visits. Play-acting is a powerful educational tool for young children. And it can serve you well when prepping your kids for their appointment.
- Use a little media. Because of the ubiquity of pediatric dental anxiety, most children’s media have tackled going to the dentist. If your child has a favorite show, you can check if it also has an episode dedicated to the topic. If not, you can browse through some books which do talk about this.
- Turn it into an adventure. You can also make preparing for the dental visit into a little adventure. Ahead of time, you can plan little steps for your kids to take to get a bit more comfortable with the experience and turn them into small quests to fulfill. The appointment then becomes the final mission, where they put all these skills to the test.