This is Dr. Joe Griffin, blogging from Florence, SC. Today, we’re going to focus more on explaining dental phobia and less on the treatment. If you suffer from dental phobia, then you understand just how scary and dangerous it can be for your dental health.
If the idea of drilling, needles, and numbing makes you curl up in fear before you even make it to the dentist, then chances are that you have dental anxiety. Dental anxiety and avoiding the dentist can cause your dental health to spiral out of control.
Ironically, the more frequently you go to the dentist for routine cleanings, the easier it will be to prevent cavities and treatments. Anxiety is hard to understand and can be very irrational. Your anxiety might be affecting more than your own trips to the dentist. Did you know that you might be spreading your dental anxiety to your children?
Correlation Between Parent and Child Dental Anxiety
A survey of 1,325 parents of children up to the age of 12 showed that 48% of the parents suffered from dental anxiety. In direct correlation, the survey showed that 47% of those children also suffered from dental anxiety. The report showed that more mothers suffered from dental anxiety than fathers. The survey also found that adults with dental anxiety feel negative thoughts about the dentist because they had bad experiences with the dentist as children.
Fifty-four percent of the parents admitted that they were nervous about their dental appointments because they were scared of pain. Seventeen percent of parents claimed their dental anxiety stemmed from merely not liking the dentist, and twenty-five percent of those in the study just feared additional dental work. So, while these fears aren’t wholly irrational, they can still diffuse to your children.
There’s a lot of truth in the saying “monkey see, monkey do.” Even if you don’t openly talk about your dental anxiety, your children can sense your fear and feed off of it. Your children might be scared to go to the dentist, even before they’ve never gone to a dental appointment.
Usually, dentists notice dental anxiety in children more than adults, which makes them difficult to treat. It can even be difficult to get children with dental anxiety to calm down enough to undergo a basic cleaning. Some fears are so strong that they’ll refuse to go into the office for an appointment.
This is unfortunate since kids have smaller teeth that are more susceptible to tooth decay and dental problems. Fortunately, only 19% of mothers and 37% of fathers in the study said it was difficult to convince their child to go to the dentist. There are still some extra measures you can take to make your child comfortable about their dental health and visiting the dentist.
Strategies for Helping Your Children Combat Dental Anxiety
One way to help your child feel more comfortable about the dentist is by controlling your negative emotions and keeping things light-hearted. Here are some tactics you can use to help your child enjoy the dentist:
- Go to the right dentist: When it comes to treating patients and children with dental anxiety, not all dentists are cut from the same cloth. Some dentists are great at what they do, but don’t have a personality that makes children feel comfortable. You can interview dentists to find ones that do well with younger patients and ask them how they deal with nervous children. You can typically tell if a dentist is good with kids by the number of toys and children’s books in their waiting room. These are good indicators that the dentist cares about the well-being of your child and wants to take your child’s mind off of their appointment. Dentists with TVs, music, and other distraction methods will also help your child remain calm before their appointment.
- Stay positive: It might be difficult when you have a worried child, but the easiest way to ease your child’s nerves is to stay positive about the visit. Act as a support to your child by telling them you’re proud of how brave they’re being. It’s also important to remind your kid of the importance of maintaining dental health. Depending on the degree of dental anxiety that your kid experiences, you can offer them a reward system to help lessen their anxiety.
- Don’t skip appointments: If your child goes too long without going to the dentist, the dentist will seem more unfamiliar and intimidating. By taking your child to regular dental appointments, they can get used to the routine and feel more comfortable at the dentist’s office. This will also help prevent dental problems that would otherwise require treatments.
- Sedation: Besides scoping out the atmosphere and personality of the dentist’s office, you can look to see if they offer minimal sedation to help alleviate your child’s fear during treatments. Talk to your dentist about what kind of technology they offer to minimize pain for routine checkups and cavity fillings.
While there’s no way to entirely get rid of your child’s fear of the dentist, you can help reduce that fear by removing your own anxieties. Remember that your dentist is there to help you and your family. At Advanced Dental Center of Florence, we want you to enjoy your trip to the dentist, which is why we offer a comfortable atmosphere with sedation options. Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about how sedation dentistry can help make your trips to the dentist feel like a spa vacation.