How to Help Your Pediatric Patients Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist
Kids have big imaginations. Unfortunately, this big imagination can imagine scenarios that create fear and anxiety. That reality should mean creating a priority to help your pediatric patients overcome their fear of the dentist. But why?
For the Sake of Their Health
It’s common to avoid those things that create stress and fear. In some instances, this is a healthy reaction. Even so, in the case of dental anxiety or fear of the dentist, avoidance can produce unhealthy outcomes. The results can lead to a short- and long -term impact on a child’s oral health.
Delayed or cancelled dental appointments or treatment produce a downward spiral. Dental pain, general health problems, increased anxiety, and more costly or complex dental treatment can be traced to dental fear that’s not confronted and overcome.
Why Kids Fear the Dentist
First of all, dental fear is a common experience. In fact, it’s estimated that 20% of school age children fear visiting the dentist.
The general issue of dental phobia is categorized among other diagnosed phobias. But the big question is why?
Dental anxiety can be triggered by a number of experiences including:
- A previous traumatic experience
- A fear of needles
- A conditional response promoted by other family members
It’s essential to a child’s oral and general health that their fear of the dentist be sourced and solved. There are promising and practical steps to help kids feel at ease, comfortable, and confident during a visit to the dentist.
HOW TO HELP KIDS OVERCOME THEIR FEAR OF THE DENTIST
Encourage Parents to Model a Healthy Relationship with Dentistry
Parents and the significant adults in a child’s life set the tone for how a child interacts with others. Role modeling can and should include health related encounters like dentistry.
Any talk or response of fear will naturally be picked up by a child. Likewise, positive language and experiences will be associated as well.
Parents can lead the way by:
- Allowing their child/children to accompany them to a dental appointment (e.g. a routine teeth cleaning).
- Encouraging them to ask questions about what the dentist is doing during an appointment
- Sharing how their teeth feel after a cleaning, procedure, etc.
- Modeling daily oral hygiene and asking their child/children to join them while brushing and flossing.
Educate Them Early and Often About Dentistry
Early adopters of dentistry will be less likely to experience extended bouts of dental anxiety. Keep in mind that they might not be completely fearless, but they will be more comfortable in the dental environment.
Also consider adding some age-level educational resources to help acquaint kids with what to expect when visiting the dentist. Coloring books, associative games, and youth-oriented books will help educate them about dental appointments, routine procedures, and generally how to care for their developing teeth.
Engage Their Curiosity with a Preliminary Office Visit
Their first visit to the dentist doesn’t have to involve an examination. Why not allow them to experience a somewhat “hands-on,” get-acquainted tour of the dental office?
The environment will be less intimidating if they can walk around, smell the aromas, see the instruments, sit in a chair, etc. A child will begin to make a positive association with dentistry the more they’re exposed to the environment prior to an actual dental appointment.
Equip Them with Positive Vibes, Proactive Habits, and Rewarding Outcomes
Words matter. And when speaking about dentistry it’s vital to choose a positive, inviting tone.
Equally so, good habits are formed when actions are positive instead of negative. Saying, “you have to brush your teeth…” carries the tone that it’s a burden to do so. Instead, make a positive association with dental care by referring to brushing and flossing as a natural part of the daily health routine.
And it can help matters to provide some incentive for being courageous about a dental visit. Find some reasonable motivation and offer it as a “reward” for a child’s positive embrace of a dental appointment.
Create a Calming Environment and You’ll See a Decrease in Fear of the Dentist and an Increase in a Positive Perception of Dentistry
An outstanding patient experience for children and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and environment. Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and providing anxiety-free dental visits:
6 Calming Strategies for Kids Nervous About Healthcare Appointments
Download Our White Paper: Alleviating Patient Anxiety Through Office Theming
A Practical Guide to Creating an Exceptional Patient Experience
Valuing your patients and their families sets them up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. And the environment you create can help you achieve a better patient experience.
- Reduce patient anxiety and enhance their relaxation
- Prime patients and families for their appointments
- Create positive dental care experiences
Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free patient experience.