Dental Anxiety

Visiting the dentist can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Anticipating what might occur during the appointment may stir up a lot of anxiety—the unknown, after all, can be pretty scary. And this is true for both adults and children.

A lot of children thrive on routine, and a trip to see the dentist is not usually considered a welcome break from that routine. The prospect of having their mouth poked and prodded or, perhaps, something even more invasive, may make a child incredibly nervous. If your child has anxiety about visiting the dentist, there are, fortunately, strategies you can employ to calm their nerves and foster a smooth appointment.

At Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry, your local Huntington Beach pediatric dentist, your child's comfort is paramount. We will work as your partner to make things as easy for your child as possible. Keep reading to learn more about the potential causes of your child's dental anxiety and strategies which can help ease it.

The Source of Anxiety

There could be several reasons for your child's dental anxiety, and it's important to try to get to the bottom of their fear so you can start to alleviate it.

They've Heard Stories

It's entirely possible that your child heard a story about the dentist from a friend at school or an older sibling. Maybe they even heard you talking about your own dental appointment. If they heard words like "drilling" or "needle," or any other word that may conjure up fear, they may now be dreading their own visit to the dentist. Children have vivid imaginations, and it doesn't take much for them to blow something they heard way out of proportion in their minds. They may be holding onto the image of something that may not even be relevant to their own dental visit.

They Had a Bad Experience

If your child had a cleaning which turned out to be painful or a procedure that was scary, this might be enough to cause them to dread their next visit. Children have long memories, and if something felt wrong or painful at a previous dental appointment, they may be led to believe that this will happen at each recurring appointment.

They Anticipate Pain or Have Sensory Issues

Both adults and children may face anxiety because they are anticipating that a dental visit will involve pain. Whether there was actual pain at a previous appointment or there's just worry that there may be pain at the next appointment, anxiety can build up as the day approaches. Anxiety about potential dental pain may be exacerbated by sensory issues. Many children experience sensory issues, particularly those who fall on the autism spectrum. Loud sounds, bright colors, the feel of the dental chair—all of these can be a lot for someone who experiences sensory issues.

Unexplained General Anxiety

Your child may simply experience general anxiety over a dental appointment. Maybe they're unsure about what will happen. Perhaps they are self-conscious because they know they do not brush or floss properly, and they are worried the dentist will be unhappy with them. They may not be able to articulate the exact source of their anxiety, even if it's clear that they have some.

What You Can Do

Whether you can pinpoint the exact source of your child's anxiety, or it seems to be a more general anxiety, there are strategies you can use to help your child feel more comfortable about visiting the dentist.

Choose the Right Dentist

Key to helping your child feel comfortable going to the dentist is to find the right dentist. You have a choice between going to a family dentist or to a pediatric dentist, such as Dr. Chu at Dr. Beanca Children's Dentistry. A family dentist may have experience working with children, but a pediatric dentist has gone through training on top of dental school to learn all about working with children specifically. A pediatric dentist is usually well-versed about how to make a child feel comfortable at each dental appointment, whether it's a cleaning or to have a specific procedure done.

A pediatric dentist will work with you to ensure the best experience for your child. They can explicitly go over what will happen at each stage of the appointment, perform procedures with varying levels of sedation, or accommodate those with sensory issues—whatever your child needs to get through their visit successfully.

Prepare Ahead of Time

There's a lot you can do at home to prepare your child for their dental appointment. Whether they have a specific concern, such as whether or not it will hurt, or more generalized anxiety, talking about things ahead of time can help alleviate your child's worries. There are many great books you can turn to get your child ready for their dental visit. For toddlers, The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss is a wonderful way to learn about teeth and the best ways to take care of them. If your child is a little older. The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi is all about overcoming anxiety about going to the dentist. Reading books together and discussing how the characters feel about the dentist may lead your child to feel less anxious about their own dental outing.

Stick to a Routine

Routine check-ups can play a crucial part in curbing your child's anxiety. If they are visiting the dentist every six months and learn what to expect at each appointment, this can go a long way toward helping your child feel comfortable. Visting the dentist on a regular basis will also aid in building trust between your child and their dentist. The more trust there is, the more relaxed and less anxious your child will be when it is time to make an appointment for a check-up.

Set a Good Example

Your child is watching you for cues on how to respond in all types of situations, including how to handle going to the dentist. Make sure you are keeping up with your dental appointments and talking to your kids about how you take care of your teeth. Depending upon your child's age, it may even be helpful for them to accompany you to the dentist so they can see what happens without being in the "hot seat" themselves. If you display calm about going to the dentist, your child may too.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene at Home

The better your child's dental health is, the easier a time they will have at the dentist. Cleanings, x-rays, and an exam may be all your child needs if they are taking care of their teeth at home. Your child should be brushing and flossing twice a day. (Keep an eye on your kids aged eight and under to make sure they are cleaning their teeth thoroughly.) Limiting sugar intake and promoting a healthy diet will also serve to protect teeth against decay and the necessity for anxiety-inducing procedures.

Are You in the Market for a Pediatric Dentist?

Is your child anxious about visiting the dentist? Let us help! Our goal is to help every child who visits our practice feel comfortable and confident in their dental health. We want them to look forward to their appointments!

To get started, contact our Huntington Beach, CA, office today.