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6 Ways to Manage Pediatric Dental Anxiety

 

Pediatric dental anxiety might be a mouthful to say, but it’s actually a severe problem in the practice. This problem arises when children are anxious about going to the dentist. It’s part of a more significant condition called dental fear and anxiety (DFA). Without proper intervention, this issue can put a strain on your child’s dental appointments and subsequent treatments. Fortunately, you can manage this pediatric dental anxiety.

But first, what causes pediatric dental anxiety? Several factors, it seems. An article by Carter et al. noted that some studies found a negative link between DFA expression and quality of life “with respect to psychological well-being, social functioning, and vitality.” Other studies have also noted how embarrassment or the fear of being blamed may play a role in DFA. Others still indicate that those who exhibit DFA might be predisposed to it due to genetic factors or through conditioning.

What, then, does this play in pediatric dental anxiety? Children have yet to develop the coping mechanisms to deal with stress and pain. They also tend to have a heightened reaction to harmful stimuli. This tendency makes the expression of DFA more pronounced. Carter et al. then note that the most common causes of DFA in children include 1) previous bad experiences in the dental office, 2) a genetically fearful disposition, and 3) a strong reaction to “frustrating demands.”

How, then, do you manage pediatric dental anxiety? Here are six ways:

 

  1. Find a dentist that understands your child
    If a lousy experience is what causes your child’s pediatric dental stress, find a dentist who can ease their fears. As much as possible, look for a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists specialize in handling children. It’s why Hawaii Family Dental has a team of pediatric dentists in each of its 12 locations.
  2. Make the dental office a familiar place
    If your child is naturally fearful, lessen their pediatric dental anxiety by familiarizing them with the dental office. Take them to the dentist early. Let them tag along  your appointments. It’s hard to feel anxious in a place you already know. The more familiar the dentist’s office is, the less anxious they’ll be.
  3. Turn preparation into playtime
    Another way you can demystify the dental office is to prepare them for the appointment itself. Answer your kids if they have questions about the dental office. Do it as positively as you can. You can also turn preparation time into a game. Play-act your child’s dental appointment. Read a book that talks about going to the dentist together. Aside from being an excellent time to bond, it can improve your child’s outlook on the appointment.
  4. Don’t project your anxiety
    Sometimes, we have our hang-ups about the dentist’s chair. And sometimes, we subconsciously pass them on to our kids. As much as possible, steer clear of any disparaging comments. Try to catch yourself when you do delve into this type of language.
  5. Let your kids bring a comfort item
    If your kid’s pediatric dental anxiety is out of fussiness, make the experience as comfortable. If they have a toy, a blanket, or a gadget that calms them down, you can let them bring it during the appointment. Sometimes, a distraction is all it takes.
  6. Give your kids a fun memento of the occasion
    Finally, to make a more lasting impression, give them a little positive enforcement at the end of the appointment.  This souvenir can be anything from a sticker or a small treat. 
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