Having fears is a common and normal part of childhood. Children’s fears range from being afraid of the dark, being away from parents, certain animals, and almost anything, including a fear of the dentist.
When children are afraid of the dentist, this can make dental trips unbearable. What’s a parent to do? Children need to see the dentist ensure that teeth are growing well and healthy.
Thankfully, dentophobia is manageable, and with a little help and hand-holding, a peaceful visit to the dentist with your child is possible.
What Is Dentophobia?
Dentophobia is classified as a phobia of the dentist. It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between fear and phobia.
Fear is being afraid of something, but perhaps it’s not noticeable until it happens. It doesn’t bother your daily life.
A phobia is different. Phobias are extreme fears that interfere with your ability to live a normal life. Phobias are knowns as an anxiety disorder, even causing panic attacks.
Someone who has a fear of the dentist might still show up for their yearly check-ups, but they’re fearful the whole time. A person with dentophobia can not and will not schedule dental appointments at all and will avoid it at all costs.
What Causes Dentophobia?
There are plenty of reasons for children to be scared of the dentist. Of course, as adults, we may not think they’re logical, but for a child, the fears are very real and must be met with sensitivity and compassion.
Here are some reasons why children have dentophobia:
- Afraid of pain
- Noise from dental instruments
- Fear of the dentist
- Had an experience that caused fear and anxiety
- Needles and other dental tools
These are just a handful of reasons why your child might be afraid of the dentist. The best thing to do is to start a conversation with your child to pin down their fear.
How to Help Your Child Overcome Dental Anxiety
Overcoming dentophobia is likely not going to happen overnight. Having on talk with your child on why they shouldn’t be afraid might not accomplish much, especially if it is a deep-rooted fear.
However, that doesn’t mean that dentophobia makes it impossible to go to the dentist. Here are some ideas to assist you in helping your children overcome their fears.
Talk With Your Child
The only way to find out what’s truly troubling your child about seeing the dentist is to talk with them. Use kind, gentle tones which suggest that you’re listening intently with a desire to help them and understand.
Be careful to listen to what your child tells you and try to comprehend what they’re saying, asking questions for clarification.
Roleplay for children is very important. Child therapists use this tactic to help children develop emotional and social skills.
If possible, role-play going to the dentist with your child. Take turns being the dentist and the patient. Doing this will help them develop a healthy outlook on what visiting the dentist is like and feel more comfortable with what to expect when you arrive.
For children with real dentophobia, this might be impossible, given the fact that they’re extremely afraid. Don’t push roleplay if your child is resistant as it will make the situation worse.
Find a Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists work exclusively with children. They have additional education and knowledge in both the health and behavior of children, which makes them an excellent choice when choosing a dentist for your child. Pediatric dentists understand children better than a general dentist.
If your child had a difficult experience with a dentist, which is contributing to their fears, consider switching dentists. You don’t want your child to continue to be frightened, even if their experience seemed normal.
Word Choice Matters
If your child has never been to the dentist before, talk to your child about what to expect. But choose your words carefully, as words have a great impact on children.
Using words like, ‘hurt’ or ‘painful’ or ‘scary’ invoke images that are frightening to children. Be sure to use positive words like ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’. The dental staff may also have a vocabulary that works well with children to calm their fears.
Music has an innate ability to calm people when their anxious or afraid. At their next dental check-up, with permission from your pediatric dentist, your child can likely bring an electronic device that stores music with headphones to keep your child calm.
Remember to create a playlist beforehand and tell your child to keep their earphones in. If music works to calm your especially-anxious child, your pediatric dentist may thank you!
In some cases, severe fears might cause the child to have panic attacks or be incessantly restless and unable to cooperate.
The dentist should never use any kind of sedation with permission from you – the parent or guardian. Always discuss this option before the appointment with your dentist to see if this option would help.
In many cases, children may grow out of or face their fear of the dentist and no longer have any trouble. However, some children suffer from a true anxiety disorder and that’s best left to mental health professionals.
Getting your child help as quickly as possible sets them up for success with future dental visits. The mental health professional has the knowledge and expertise to help children of all ages overcome their dental phobia through certain types of therapy.
Dentophobia: Does Your Child Need Help?
Dentophobia is a real hindrance to keeping healthy teeth and gums. Talk with your child or dentist today about steps you can take to quell their fears and keep their mouth healthy and strong.
Are you looking for the best compassionate and understanding pediatric dentist for your child? Our office can help you set up your appointment! Contact us today for more information.