Of all the phobias that inflict humans, dental phobia may have some of the worst consequences. It’s estimated that 5-8% of Americans avoid going to the dentist entirely due to extreme fear, and as much as 20% of Americans only go when serious dental needs arise. (Source: Web MD) This fear can be created in a number of ways including a negative childhood experience, being embarrassed about the condition of your teeth, the unknown sounds or smells of the dentist’s office, or simply feeling out of control of the situation. Whatever your reasons for being afraid, one of the very best things you can do is NOT pass that fear onto your children.
A 2013 study conducted by Delta Dental and published in their Fall 2013 Newsletter stated that fear of the dentist in children jumped 10% if those children’s parents also had dental phobia. In addition to the same issues that adults afraid of the dental chair, children also feed off the negative energy of their parents when it comes to discussion or visiting the dentist. Whether your child is still under the age of 3 and hasn’t yet witnessed your dental visit anxiety or their already showing signs of inheriting your dental phobia, there are a few things you can do to turn their, and ultimately your, fear into trust with a choice dentist.
How to Make Sure They Never Fear the Dentist
If you have a very young child and want to make sure they have a strong understanding of the necessity of regular dental care, there are a few things you can do to so. First, you need to face your own fear and speak positively of dental care with your infant as they go. It’s also important to have them start going to the dentist regularly as soon as their first tooth erupts. By doing so, you give them a foundation of trust with the dentist and their surroundings there. The younger they are, the less distressing the experience will be.
Young children are still prone (and maybe more so) to responding to a strange place, so those first couple of visits may be difficult for them. In true toddler fashion, a tantrum or other reaction can happen. It’s important that you stay calm and reassure them, and make sure a follow-up or repeat visit is done soon in order to reestablish the importance of dental care.
Older Children are Still Impressionable
If you’ve already managed to allow your phobia to get better of your children, it’s not too late to show them a better way. But it starts with you. By changing the way you respond to and avoid your needed dental visits or teeth work, you can restore your child’s trust in their dentist. Using relaxation techniques and making dental work a priority are two ways to do that. You can also make sure you ask questions and understand the work being done so the unknown isn’t an excuse for fear. Wearing headphones can also drown out scary or jarring sounds. Worst case scenario, ask your dental staff about sedation dentistry options.
Once you’ve gotten grip on your own fear, your child will see that and response positively. Make sure that when you talk about the dentist, you avoid discussing details or using words that can make your child fearful. By doing so, you give the dentist staff the opportunity to explain things in a fun and encouraging way. A dentist that specializes in child dentistry will have specific training to make your child feel right at home and maybe even enjoy the dental visit. As they have regular visits that are positive ones, they will grow accustomed to it and eventually understand its importance.
It’s Up to You
Maybe your fear is too severe and you need professional help. Even then, it’s up to you to make sure your child doesn’t inherit it. It that means having a family member or friend to help them, it can mean the long-term health of their teeth. And in doing so, you may find that you’re helping yourself through it as well.