Taking your child to the dentist can be a difficult experience if he is feeling anxious about the appointment. There are varying degrees of dental anxiety and phobia. At the extreme, a person with dental phobia may never see a dentist. Others may force themselves to go, but they may not sleep the night before. It’s not uncommon for people to feel sick — or, in some cases, to actually get sick — while they’re in the waiting room.
Dental phobia, like other mental disorders, can be treated. Without treatment, dental phobia is likely to get worse over time. That’s partly because emotional stress can make dental visits more uncomfortable than they need to be.
Some of the signs of dental phobia include:
- You feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam.
- You get increasingly nervous while you’re in the waiting room.
- You feel like crying when you think of going to the dentist. The sight of dental instruments — or of white-coated personnel in the dentist’s office — increases your anxiety.
- The thought of a dental visit makes you feel physically ill.
- You panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental appointment.
So what can you do as a parent to help ease his mind? Here are a few tips that can help provide some comfort to your child and make his visit much more pleasant.
Talk to Your Child
Talking to your child about his anxiety may not only help him feel better, but it can also help you understand the root cause of his fear. Perhaps a classmate shared a scary experience or your child watched something disturbing about teeth on television. When bringing up the topic, choose a quiet time when you’re not distracted so you can give him your full attention. Also, don’t make light of his fear; let him know that you understand. You could also share a fear of yours to show him that you’ve been in that situation too. This is a great way to build trust with your child and get him to open up to you. With a better understanding of the problem, you will be able to deal with the underlying issues.
Make It a Family Affair
The presence of a parent or even a sibling can help comfort your little one. Scheduling an appointment for both your child and a family member is one way to show him that he is not alone. Children often like to copy their older siblings and want to be just like them, so having your child watch his brother or sister in the dentist’s chair can give him that extra boost of confidence he needs. And when it’s his turn to sit in the chair, you and his sibling can cheer him on from the sidelines.
Talk to Your Dr. Jaleel
It is worth mentioning your child’s anxiety to Dr. Jaleel before the appointment. We can cater the appointment to timid patients by providing some toys in the examination room or setting aside a little extra time beforehand to talk to your little one. Sometimes it takes just a little preparation ahead of time to make your child’s dentist visit a lot more enjoyable.
Your child may never be fully comfortable visiting the dentist, but hopefully with some of these suggestions you can reduce his anxiety.