It’s not just children who experience anxiety when the prospect of visiting a dentist is upon them. Although not many adults would like to admit it, they can also suffer from anxiety when getting their teeth treated.
Many complications can arise from untreated anxiety, especially among children who are very sensitive and vulnerable. Milder symptoms experienced due to anxiety can include dizziness and trembling, while more serious problems, such as fainting, panic attacks and heart palpitations, aren’t uncommon.
However, there’s no need to despair. There are plenty of strategies that you can follow to help ease your child’s anxiety before a trip to the dentist.
Relax The Body
It may seem like an impossible task to calm a panicking child, but it can be done if you know what to do. Before trying to talk to your child, it’s a good idea to start off by employing body relaxation techniques. This is because you won’t be able to reach their mind clearly and effectively if the biological processes within their body are stressed out.
- Breathing Exercises – An extremely effective technique to calm both children and adults down is to conduct breathing exercises. Much of the stress and anxiety that courses through the body is a result of labored and constrained breathing, which places tremendous stress on the body. Guide your child through the simple breathing exercise of deep inhalations, followed by long and slow exhalations that can calm the bodily system down within minutes.
- Muscle Relaxation – Another powerful relaxation trick involves progressively relaxing the muscles to calm the system down. This technique involves deliberately tensing certain muscles before completely relaxing them, preferably with the eyes closed to maximize the relaxation effect. Talk your child through this by targeting specific muscle groups. You can start off with the upper body by tensing and relaxing the shoulders, neck, and chest, before progressing down the body to the legs.
There’s no better way to set off a child’s anxiety than them realizing that they weren’t told the whole truth about their dentist visit. If they’re going to be injected in the gums or have a painful check-up, you must not lie to them about these things as it will only make the situation worse once you arrive at the dentist office. However, remember that dentists have the training and experience required to deal with children, which will involve describing the procedure in a calm, non-threatening manner. It’s best to give your child some of the important details, but leave the specifics to your dentist as they will know how to say it in the correct manner.
Ease Them In Gradually
A good dentist will be familiar with the precepts of systematic desensitization, especially those specializing in treating children, like Alligator Pediatric Dentistry. This entails slowly and gradually progressing with treatments that can trigger anxiety, rather than forcing it all upon the child at once. For example, if a painful injection is needed, the child can initially have the procedure explained verbally. After this, they can see the needle for themselves and be talked through what to expect. Only after they have gradually been exposed should the dentist consider administering the injection.
Always Be There For Them
A large part of a child’s anxiety is the fear of being left alone to deal with their fears. You should always accompany your child and be at their side throughout all procedures, before, during and after. This will soothe their anxiety and put them at ease as their trusted parent or caregiver is there to immediately deal with any potential complications. Be sure to talk frequently with your child and make regular physical contact to reassure them.
There’s nothing like a good incentive to motivate children. Reinforcing their good behavior with a reward will encourage them to brave the challenge they face as they’re assured that they can enjoy something they love afterwards. Praise will always work wonders for a child, while a new toy or a fun-filled day out at the end of the horizon will motivate them to endure any difficult dentist visit.
Dealing with anxiety can be especially tough with children as the use of reasonable conversation won’t always get through. It’s understandable to feel hopeless as a parent trying to calm a distressed child down, but it’s actually very much within your power if you know how to. You can experiment with a variety of the techniques described above to find the most ideal solution for your child’s anxiety. As with most challenges involving children, being loving, caring, and compassionate is the key as it will always help bring out the best in your child.