How to Resolve Your Own Dental Anxiety to Help Both You and Your Child
Are you worried your dental anxiety will rub off on your child?
One of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood is watching as our children grow and learn more about the world around them. Part of that unique experience is also seeing how our viewpoints on certain things can affect our children’s outlook.
Unfortunately, that can have a negative effect on their view point. Dental anxiety is a good example of how our experiences can end up shaping our child’s experiences.
The Link Between a Parent’s Dental Anxiety and Their Child’s Unease
If you notice your child seems to be uneasy or afraid of the dentist without any real reason, it could be that their anxiety has been passed on from you.
Research shows a definite link between parents with dental fear and children with dental fear. The truth is, in many cases, fear of the dentist is passed on from parents to their kids. Parents, of course, aren’t purposely passing this anxiety along. So how does it happen?
Children are pros when it comes to mimicry, and they’re extremely in-tune with the body language and expressions of the adults they look up to, especially their parents. The younger your child, the more they’ll be looking to you when they’re unsure of how to react in a situation like a dental appointment.
Triggers like negative words or uneasy body language are quickly picked up on but tricky to self-recognize as a parent. The way to move forward is to adopt a positive mindset by understanding how your own dental anxiety began, learn how to manage it, and pass on your confidence to your child.
Understanding Your Own Dental Anxiety and How It Began
Dental anxiety is widespread with approximately 80% of Americans experiencing some level of anxiety during dental visits.
There are three big things to absorb as a parent with dental anxiety or fear:
- The first thing to recognize is that you’re definitely not alone and feeling anxious is a normal reaction, especially if you’ve had bad experiences.
- The second thing to recognize is even if some of your fears have rubbed off on your child, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
- The third and most important thing to recognize is you can get control of your dental anxiety and help your child learn to view the dentist as a friend and not a foe.
Before diving into how to start managing your dental anxiety, it’s really important to take a moment and think back to what events may have caused your own fears.
You might be able to recall a negative experience with a dentist that caused some trauma. Perhaps a procedure you went through ended up being more painful than you anticipated. Or maybe you never had a traumatic experience but you picked up your anxiety from your own parents. Whatever the case may be, recognize it and think about how a one-off bad experience in any given situation doesn’t necessarily mean that the situation will always be negative.
Tips for Resolving or Managing Your Own Dental Anxiety and Fear
Helping your child get over their own dental anxiety is much easier when you also look for ways to reduce your own fear. Not to mention the huge benefit of reframing your opinion of dental care and learning to relax more in the dentist’s chair.
Here are six simple but very effective ways you can either resolve or manage your dental anxiety:
- Look for a new dentist if yours makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Ask your dentist about sedation like nitrous oxide to help.
- Practice breathing techniques on your own or pop in your earbuds and listen to a guided meditation.
- Take along earbuds to listen to music or an audiobook if drilling sounds or the noise of the office increases your anxiety.
- Plan a special event after your dentist’s appointment so you have something fun to think about and look forward to.
- If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Adults who seek behavioral help with dental fear show a significant and lasting improvement.
Another helpful way to squelch your fears is to switch from negative thinking to positive thinking. When you catch yourself thinking in a negative manner, push it aside and replace it with a positive one. For example, if you’re thinking, “I’m really not looking forward to getting this filling,” change it to, “I’m grateful I’m able to get a filling and I look forward to having a healthier smile.”
How You Can Help Your Child Learn to Enjoy Their Dental Visits
With your anxiety under control, you can start to help your child learn to view their dentist in a positive light.
Here are seven tips for helping nervous kids:
- Use positive language and phrases when talking with your kid about the dentist.
- Answer their questions if you can and encourage them to ask questions to the dentist so they can develop a relationship.
- Play a game or read a book with them when you’re in the waiting room and maintain relaxed body language.
- Treat the dentist as no big deal, but don’t shrug off your kid’s worries if they bring them up. Chat with them and help them work through it.
- For young kids, play dentist at home using a toy dental kit found online or at a local toy store.
- Read dentist-related books designed for your kid’s age. Kid-friendly videos are also a great option.
- Switch to a dedicated pediatric dental office that’s fun for children of all ages, like Pediatric Dental Specialists.
Let Pediatric Dental Specialists Transform Your Child’s Experience
As a parent, your own confidence and well-timed reassurance have the most profound effect on how your child views the dentist. The second most influential factor is the dental office you choose for your child.
Finding a dentist you feel you can trust is an important step in getting over your own anxiety or fear as an adult—and the same concept applies when choosing a dentist for your child. The more comfortable you both feel with your child’s dentist, the better experience both of you will have.
Pediatric Dental Specialists is dedicated to providing compassionate, gentle dental care for families in the Greater Nebraska area, including Hastings, Grand Island, North Platte, and Omaha. We are extremely understanding and welcoming of our young patients who already experience dental anxiety. As a parent, you might even find your own dental fears lessen as you see your child learn to relax and even enjoy their own dental visits.
When you’re ready to make an appointment, you can either give your local office a call or use our online Request An Appointment form.