Children And Dental Phobia

Calm and happy kids means successful dental visits and a healthier mouth!

Phobias are strange things and it can sometimes be difficult to understand where they have come from. Some phobias are common, such as a fear of flying or even of spiders. Others are definitely more on the ‘weird’ spectrum, including ‘linonophobia’ (a fear of string) and ‘chorophobia’ (a fear of dancing).

One of the most common ones that many people suffer from to varying degrees though is ‘odontophobia’ which, as you may have guessed from the name, is a fear of the dentists.

At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, we see our fair share of nervous dental patients from the Burton area. Many are not only afraid of visiting the dentist, but when they do, they often apologise for their anxiety. The thing is that we see lots of people like this, and if you are afraid of having dental treatment, or even a check up, don’t worry, you are most definitely not alone.

There are a number of ‘tactics’ that you can use to reduce your stress levels, but, seeing as it is believed that many phobias start when we are very young, we thought it would be worth looking at how parents can help their children to avoid this problem in the early years.

Deal with your own phobia first

The truth is that, especially early on, children learn much about life from their parents. So, if mum or dad are panicking about their upcoming dental visit, it is hardly surprising that the children also see this as something to avoid if they possibly can. Dental phobia is a problem, and one that can lead to serious oral health issues. For parents whose anxiety is relatively mild, it may be enough to just put on a brave face around the kids. More serious anxiety though may need to be addressed.

There are lots of websites dedicated to dental anxiety solutions and it is worth looking at these to find one that works for you. It may be a case of trial and error but hopefully you will gradually overcome it.

If you are still very anxious about dentists, you may wish to ask a close relative to bring your child when they need to have their teeth checked. A favourite auntie might even make it into a treat for the child. Just make sure that they are not nervous too, and that you have authorised them to be the carer for your child with our team.

Keeping kids relaxed

One of the best ways that you can help to prevent your children being afraid of the dentist is to introduce them to the clinic environment from an early age.  Ideally, we suggest bringing your child to see us around their first birthday. Because it is very unlikely that any treatment will be needed at that stage, it should provide a gentle first introduction to their future visits. It also enables them to get used to the smells, sights and sounds that they will encounter.

Education plays a part too, and with the use of videos and games on websites, you can now introduce them to what happens at a dental practice, as well as teaching them about the importance of cleaning their teeth.

Educating them about why and how they should look after their teeth and gums means that when they do start to visit the dentist regularly, there is a greatly reduced chance that they will need to receive any treatment, or that it will be relatively minor if they do. Where a child does need to have, say, a tooth filling, you can be sure that we will look after them and take the time to make sure that they are as relaxed as possible. The first procedure that they have can be a very worrying time for them, so it is important, both for us and them, that this goes as smoothly as possible. A bad first experience is certainly not going to help them avoid anxiety around their visits in future.

Be gentle

When you talk to your child about going to the dentist, try not to use words like ‘pain’ or ‘pulling’ out teeth. Children don’t understand how dentistry works so it may not be appropriate to use terms such as ‘extractions’, but simplifying the language used, even with the best of intentions, can cause children to build up a false, and often scary, picture of what is going to happen to them.

If you have children who have not yet been to see a dentist, even for a check up, it may be later than ideal, but it is never too late to start. The sooner one of our Burton children’s dentists can examine them, the sooner we can start to restore any teeth that are decayed and get their oral health back in shape again. Our gentle team will make sure that we look after them and hopefully reassure them that seeing a dentist is nothing to be afraid of!

If you would like to make an appointment for your child at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice, you can call us on 01283 845345.