5 Tips to Try for Kids With Dental Anxiety

Kids dental anxiety Ann Arbor MI dentists

Don’t be shocked if your child appears visibly shaken after you utter the word “dentist”. It’s quite common for young children to be fearful of new places and depending on how many times they’ve been before, that can mean a dental practice. Fortunately, our Ann Arbor dentists provide gentle pediatric dental care and can help.

Here are 5 ways to remedy your child’s dental anxiety before their next visit.

Investigating the Cause of the Anxiety

There are a variety of reasons why children harbor a fear of the dentist. Discovering why your child feels apprehensive can prove difficult at first as even they may not know the source. We recommend leveling with them and patiently listening to their concerns.

Your child could have dental anxiety because of:

  • A negative or painful past experience
  • How dental tools look or feel
  • Someone in the family who also has dental anxiety (learned behavior)
  • Lack of preparation for the first dental visit

For children who have a tougher time and need extra help to get through their appointment, our dentists do offer sedation methods, such as laughing gas. Once administered, your child may feel a little tired, but they will remain awake and responsive the entire time they are inhaling the gas through a small nose piece. Ask us today about this option if you think your child may benefit from sedation.

Address Your Child’s Dental Anxiety By:

1. Having an Open Conversation

Engaging in a judgment-free discussion with your child about their dental fear can help you understand where they’re coming from. It can also allow them to get whatever is bothering them off their chest. Sometimes feeling heard is all it takes and can make your child more open to conquering their fear.

Depending on their age, be sure to use language your child can understand and do your best to answer any questions they may have. Try to avoid scary or frightening words that can add to their anxiety. Simply talking about their upcoming appointment, even if it’s only a teeth cleaning and dental exam, can educate your child on what to expect.

2. Allowing Them to Take a Favorite Item to Their Visit

When your child has something with them, such as a soft blanket or stuffed animal, they are more likely to feel comforted at our office. Choose an item that works for your child. For example, if they love music and it helps them calm down in stressful situations, bring headphones so they can listen to their favorite songs in the dental chair.

Over time, their comfort item may cause them to feel relaxed enough at the dentist that they no longer require its presence. That’s the goal!

3. Introducing Educational Books About the Dentist

Most kids love story time and if possible, would prefer you read to them all day. Capitalize on your child’s love of stories and share with them books about going to the dentist. Make it even better by selecting books that feature their favorite characters having their teeth cleaned so they can see there’s nothing to fear.

If they’re afraid of a certain procedure like getting a cavity filled, seek out books that tackle that topic. Bonus if they encourage prevention via brushing and flossing teeth!

4. Pretending You’re the Dentist

Is your little one unaware of the general processes followed at the dentist? Help familiarize them in a fun way by assuming the role of the dentist and pretend to examine their teeth. Remember to explain each step of what you’re doing so they can follow along. When you’re done with the “cleaning”, switch roles and have them do what you just did. Stuffed animals make great patients as well!

5. Ensuring They’re Well-Rested and Not Hungry

How do you feel when you’re hungry and haven’t gotten enough sleep? Probably not great. You don’t want your kid going into their appointment feeling cranky as it will only make matters worse.

Put your child to bed on time before their visit and aim for a full night’s sleep. Then, when they wake up, give them a healthy breakfast and if needed, nutritious snacks until the time comes to head over to our Ann Arbor, MI, dental office.

Make an Appointment 

Overcoming your child’s anxiety towards the dentist will not happen overnight. Our dentists in Ann Arbor, MI, understand that it can take time for your little one to finally feel confident in the dental chair. Everyone moves at their own pace and that’s okay! When you’re ready to bring them in, call Liberty Dental at (734) 994-0909 to request an appointment.

This blog post has been updated.

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