Bozart Family Dentistry Tip of the Week: Overcoming Fear of the Dentist for Children

By / Health and Wellness / Wednesday, 28 January 2015 05:00

Does your child have a fear of going to the dentist?
Even if they don't, it's just as important that you take the proper steps to help ensure that they never develop a fear of the dentist as this is something that many people can carry with them for the rest of their lives. In order to eliminate fear, we must first better understand where our fears are rooted.
When you we're born, you only had two natural fears upon entering this world:
1. A fear of falling
2. A fear of loud noises
Did you notice that a fear of the dentist isn't on here? So then the question is, how do these dental fears develop?
Fear is a learned emotion. As we've already mentioned, nobody is born with a fear of the dentist. However, somewhere along the way this fear seems to develop for many people, usually in childhood. The reasons for which these fears develop can be numerous, reasons such as:
• A parent accidentally passes on their fears (sometimes only a passing comment can plant this seed of fear to then grow)
• Perhaps they learned the fear from a friend or other family member
• or maybe the child had a bad dentist experience before
Now these are just a few of the potential causes of dental fear, but you can see how the development or non-development of dental fear in children is usually directly related to their core daily influences. With the biggest influence usually being the parents.
Tips to Help your Child Avoid Fear of the Dentist:
• Watch what you say - Be careful about verbalizing any of your dental anxieties. This is where kids will usually pick up their dental fears. They heard their parents make a seemingly harmless comment to perhaps somebody else in passing, but kids can be the best of listeners when you don't want them to hear something can't they? So try to keep your fears to yourself if possible.
• Take them sooner than later - All anxieties develop over time. Just like when you first put your toe in the water to check the temperature. Now if it's a little cool and you wait to think about jumping in, your anxiety over the coldness will only grow to the point that there's no way your going in. However, if you just jump in right away you'll get used to the temperature and it won't be a big deal. So jump in head first when it comes to taking your child to the dentist. Regular dental visits can start as early as 1-2 years old.
• Don't sympathize with their fear - When we sympathize or relate to our children's fears, really all that we're doing is legitimizing them. So if you're child is scared of the dentist, the last thing that you want to do is to make them think  this is how it's supposed to be. Even if you've maybe had negative dental experiences in the past, your child most likely hasn't yet. So try to plant the seed in their minds that the "norm" of going to the dentist is a positive experience, not something to be scared of.
• Try to avoid bribes - Children are a lot smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. They know at a very early age that the only reason you may offer them a "reward" or bribe is because they need to do something unpleasant in return. So the second that you offer them a bribe you've also planted a seed of something to fear in their minds by them understanding that this must be an unpleasant experience. This builds anxiety which can eventually develop into an all out fear over time. Instead of a bribe to motivate them, share with them the importance of dental health and let their reward be their own positive oral health! This will also help them to take ownership of their oral hygiene and get excited about keeping it up.
• Try to make it fun - This is probably the most important thing. Instead of building a visit to the dentist up as something unpleasant, build it up into a fun experience! If you are going to a good family dentist then this should be easy as they will provide a fun atmosphere for kids of all ages.
The bottom line on trying to either stop dental fear from developing in your child, or trying to stop it once developed is to make sure that you are planting the right thoughts in your child's mind when it comes to the dentist. Avoid fear inducing words or comments and instead, pro-actively plant the ideas that the dentist is fun and very important to them maintaining a lifelong healthy smile. Put these tips into action and help your children's fears of the dentist melt away!


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