How to help a child who is anxious about the dentist – Part 1
Do you dread taking your child to the dentist?
Are you worried about how your child will behave?
Do you put off visiting the dentist until your child has toothache?
Maybe you are anxious yourself and don’t know how to help you child overcome their fears?
In this two part blog we will look at ways in which you can make visiting the dentist less stressful, and maybe even enjoyable for you and your child.

Children are not born with a fear of going to the dentist. A small child visiting the dentist for the first time will not know what to expect, apart from what they have picked up from their parents and others around them. Therefore, it is important to try to give your child a positive view of dental health. Depending on your child’s age, you can discuss or show them the importance of teeth and looking after them in an appropriate way. They can be encouraged to view the dentist as someone who helps them look after their teeth.

If you are anxious yourself, or have had a bad experience in that past, try not to talk about this in front of your child and advise other family members and friends to do the same.

A recent study showed that parents’ attitudes towards dentistry are often passed on to their children.Children are often listening in on our conversations with others, even while we think they are playing or doing something else. They even pick up on anxieties that we do not speak about by our expressions. If you have fear of the dentist you may find this 4 part blog (click for link) helpful for advice on overcoming your own anxiety.

Finding a child friendly dentist

Of course, it is important to find a dentist who is good with children. Not all dentists are good at, or enjoy, working with children. Find a practice where the dentist and their support staff relate well to your child and work to gain their trust so that your child can feel comfortable with them. The environment is also important in putting your child at ease and the decor should be fun. The waiting area should have toys, books or some form of entertainment to make waiting easier.

Ask around for recommendations from friends and family or look at reviews from other parents. You can ask dental practices about their experience and expertise in treating children. Pediatric Dentists (or Pedodontists) are specialists in children’s dentistry and usually have 3 years further training in Pediatric Dentistry after dental school. If you are in Bangalore, Small Bites in Indiranagar provides exclusive dental care for children. Here, we believe that every child deserves a good start in life with the best preventive dental care.
How can I help my child at home before a visit?

Try to schedule the appointment at the best time for your child. Small children especially do not do so well if they are tired and hungry.
  • If you or your child are anxious, try to choose a time when the dentist is less busy to minimise waiting and so that there will be more time to discuss any issues and concerns. Even if this means that you have to take time off work it may be worth it for a first visit.
  • Be positive. If your child is anxious, listen and show them you understand their concerns but express confidence that they will be okay.
  • Do not use words or scare stories that may upset your child. Even if you say “it’s not going to hurt” the main word that your child will hear is “hurt”, even though this may not have been in their mind before.
  • For young children, you could “play dentist” at home. You and your child can take it in turns to “be the dentist” and check each others teeth. Also try using your child’s favourite soft toy or a puppet and “check their teeth.” You can buy small plastic mouth mirrors for this, or just use your toothbrush.
  • If your child has a sibling, cousin or friend who is good with the dentist it may be helpful to visit the dentist with them first.
  • There are many good children’s books and videos available which can help children to understand about going to the dentist.
  • If your child has had a difficult time at the dentist in the past, ask them about their concerns. Discuss these with your dentist to find ways to help your child before the next appointment.
  • If one parent is particularly anxious, it may be better for the other parent, or another close relative, to bring the child for their appointments.
Ideally, a child’s first experience at the dentist should not be for treatment. If at all possible, try to take your child just to see the dental practice and meet the dentist, or at most have a quick check-up, before they have any problems. This will help them to feel comfortable with the environment.

At Small Bites we also have children’s activities (advertised on our Facebook page – click for link)held in the clinic. This is a chance for children to get used to the environment and have fun on a separate day from any appointments.

If your child, already has pain or problems before they have visited the dentist, don’t worry. A good dentist will aim to alleviate the pain at a first visit but do further treatment as your child increases in confidence and cooperation.

Regular visits for check-ups will help your child. It is much better if they do not need treatment every time they have an appointment.

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