Pediatric Dental Anxiety

Many adults today maintain anxiety about going to the dentist and attribute this anxiety to past uncomfortable or painful dental visits that they had when they were younger. They now face the prospect of their own children going to the dentist for the first time. Children going to the dentist for the first time should not have a specific anxiety about this, but we should remember that many young children have stranger anxiety, particularly towards those who enter their personal space. It is important that parents help their children overcome any developing anxiety regarding dental visits.

For children, not dealing with the fear of the dentist can have far-reaching consequences, more than many parents think. For example, an ordinarily well-behaved child who is afraid of the dentist may not cooperate with basic procedures such as dental exams, x-rays, and cleanings, making it difficult for the dentist to perform an adequate exam. Furthermore, if dental work such as filling a cavity has to be done, anxious and uncooperative children may have to be sedated in order to accomplish the necessary procedure. Finally, children who maintain dental anxiety may carry that fear into adulthood, leading to poor dental health later in life.

Parents should not expect that their child’s fears will disappear over night, but one thing that a parent can do to lower their child’s dental anxiety is to avoid reinforcing the anxiety. Even if a parent is afraid of the dentist, the parent should never display that fear in front of their child, as children respond to basic cues from their parents.

Parents may also decide on using a pediatric dentist who has been specially trained in dealing with anxious children. Not only do pediatric dentists use special tools to make the process less painful, but also their offices tend to more kid-friendly. Most pediatric dentists incorporate fun things into their office to which children are more receptive, like cartoon characters, video games, etc.

It is important for children to learn as early as possible what a dentist is and why their work is so important. Children should be taught good oral hygiene in the home and parents should explain, in the simplest way possible, that good oral hygiene saves the trouble of more invasive dental procedures later on.

A child who is anxious about going to the dentist is at risk of developing poor dental health. While any parent hates to see his or her child feel this afraid, avoiding the dentist because of anxiety is never a good decision. In fact there may always be a certain level of dental anxiety for a person of any age, but with a few simple steps, parents can greatly lower the amount of uneasiness their child feels about going to the dentist.