Dental anxiety is totally normal, especially for children. It’s common for kids to dread the dentist due to the intrusive nature of dental procedures. If your child has pre-dental jitters, there are some strategies you can use to ease their nerves. Let’s explore the best five ways to comfort a nervous child before a dental appointment.
- Open a dialogue, but don’t hone in on specifics
It’s important to maintain an open dialogue with children about many things in life. Among these topics are children’s dentistry and orthodontics. Whilst parents should encourage children to discuss their fears and ask questions, they should respond in general terms, avoiding words or details that could perpetuate anxiety. It’s best to leave the specifics to the dentist, who is likely experienced in general dentistry for children and better equipped to explain the ins and outs ‘like they’re five’.
Oftentimes, a child wants their fears to be heard and understood. Hearing them out can be all the comfort they need. In any case, it’s best to be sympathetic without being too empathetic. Hearing about that time that Mummy was also scared of the big drill will likely exacerbate fears.
- ‘Practise’ the procedure in a safe environment
What do we mean by ‘practising’ the procedure? We mean playing house—with a dental twist. Provided your child is comfortable, encourage them to lie back while you assume the role of the dentist. As you pretend to clean the teeth, run your child through the steps—remembering to avoid ‘trigger’ words or scary specifics.
Once you’ve completed the ‘procedure’, encourage your child to assume the role of the dentist. You can do this by switching roles or by bringing some stuffed toys into the roleplay. The aim of the exercise is to introduce children’s dentistry and orthodontics in a way that is fun and somewhat preparatory.
- Introduce books with a dental theme into storytime
There are many children’s books available that cover the topic of going to the dentist. Introduce these into storytime to familiarise your child with the concept. In a similar vein to roleplaying the procedure, reading books about a dental visit will cast general dentistry for children in a fun, new light. Children may feel comforted seeing their favourite characters face the dentist carefree.
- Bring a ‘security blanket’ to the appointment
If your child draws comfort from hugging a security blanket or stuffed animal, bring it along to the appointment. Alternatively, if music is their vice, you could bring a pair of earbuds so they can distract themself throughout the procedure. Whatever they find comforting, bring it along as an emotional crutch. After a while, they may associate this comforting feeling with the dentist’s office, negating the need for the ‘security blanket’ strategy altogether.
- Ensure they’re rested and well fedThe only thing that makes an uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable is fatigue and hunger. For this reason, it’s important to take a child to the dentist when they’re feeling fresh as a daisy. Ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before their appointment and that they have a healthy breakfast—supplemented with healthy snacks if need be. You cannot eat for an hour or two following a dental cleaning, so it’s important that your child is not running on empty in the lead-up to their appointment.
If you just typed ‘how to pull child’s tooth’ into Google, here’s a word of advice: leave that procedure to the professionals. If your child has cavities, tooth extraction is sometimes necessary, but you should never attempt to do this yourself. If, on the other hand, you just typed ‘how to find a dentist for my child’ into Google, you’re exactly where you need to be.
At Everton Park Dental, we do general dentistry for children in a friendly environment. Our staff are well versed in carrying out gentle dentistry in a way that won’t overwhelm the kids. To book your child in for an appointment, call us on (07) 3355 7936 or book an appointment online. We can’t wait to welcome your child into our clinic and instil dental hygiene habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.