Many people feel anxiety when its time to visit the dentist. Your child is no different! Worries about what may happen…will it hurt?, or if you haven’t been in a while…what will they find? plague all of us. Children are young so they haven’t been as often and don’t know what to expect like adults do.
Whatever the reasons for anxiety, the right dental team will make sure your dental and your emotional health are taken care of. The more you delay – or just don’t go – to the dentist, the higher your risk of developing dental problems that will make gearing up for future dental visits more difficult. In fact, seeing your dentist regularly can actually make the entire process – from making an appointment to sailing through it – much easier on many levels.
Use these strategies at your next appointment to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile.
1. Talk to Your Child, Ask Questions
Sharing your feelings makes a world of difference. Feeling tense or anxious is normal for everyone. Having a chance to get concerns or worries off your child’s chest, will help your child relax. Your dentist and dental team are better able to treat your child if they know your needs.
- Tell your dentist about your child’s anxiety. When you book their appointment, tell the receptionist your child is nervous about dental visits. Remind the dentist and dental staff about their anxiety when you arrive. Share any bad experiences they may have had in the past, and ask for suggestions on coping strategies.
- Ask questions! Sometimes knowing what is going to happen alleviates any fears of the unknown.
- Agree on a signal. Let their dentist know by raising their hand if they need to take a break during an exam.
- If they experience pain even with a local anesthetic, tell the dentist. Some patients get embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don’t want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure. Talk with your child’s dentist about pain before it starts so your dentist knows how to communicate with them and make it their visit more comfortable for them.
2. Distracting Your Child
Its difficult to distract your child when they are anxious or nervous, but finding happy distractions is a great way to take their mind off their thoughts.
- Many dental offices have televisions or show DVDs. Wearing headphones if the sound of drills is bothersome. Bringing headphones so they can listen to their favorite music or audiobook.
- Keeping their hands occupied by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object, like a fidget spinner.
- Teaching guided meditation… imagining their ‘happy place’ and visualizing themselves at a relaxing beach or a beautiful secret garden.
3. Teaching Mindfulness
Using mindfulness is a great way to handle many stressors!
- Counting their breaths. Inhaling slowly and then exhaling for the same number of counts. Doing this five times while they’re waiting for their appointment, or during breaks while they’re sitting in the dental chair.
- Doing a body scans. Concentrating on relaxing muscles, one body part at a time. Starting with their head and work their way down to their toes. For example, they can focus on releasing tension starting in their forehead, then their cheeks, their neck and down the rest of their body.
Reminding your child of all their tools for dealing with anxiety will help to keep them focused on strategies instead of what the dentist is doing. And remember to encourage them for all the hard work they put in to handling what can be a stressful situation for many. They are not alone. They have you and their awesome dental team!
For more articles on dental health, see our main blog page.