Dental anxiety is a real problem. It is recognized as one of the main
public health concerns because it causes improper dental care and poor oral
Many children develop a fear of dentist (
) as a result of the poor information around them. Horror movies, books and
even stories from their peers contribute to making them uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, most of this information is false and establish a wrong
notion about the dental practice.
Sometimes, the fear is genuinely as a result of a bad previous experience
or acquired through modelling by parents or siblings. This prevents many
people from giving their children or wards the best dental or medical care
dentists at Tiger Smile Dental
believe that as professionals, it is up to us to help dispel that fear by
correcting the bad impression and doing our best to comfort the child when
Here are some steps to help ease children at your practice.
Give them enough information
Children with high anxiety tend to respond better when they have an idea of
what to expect. They are more likely to bear the procedure when they have
been pre-informed. It will help to gently explain what you are about to do
before each step. Reassure them of how easy it will be.
Also, be calm so you can give a positive vibe. Children are very sensitive
and can read your countenance. A reassuring demeanour will make them feel
more comfortable about their procedure.
Employ relaxation techniques
You can help your child patients by suggesting certain relaxation
activities. They help slow down the body’s heightened reaction. For
example, simple breathing exercises are useful in controlling blood flow
and increased heartbeat. Ask the child to take regular deep breaths and
exhale slowly. When they maintain a rhythm, their anxiety will ease to a
Allow their parent stay close
Use systematic desensitization
A child may feel more relaxed when a loved one is close- someone they
trust. If their presence won’t interfere with your work, they can hold the
child’s hand. This is more common with first time visits to the dentist. As
the child becomes more familiar with dental treatment, they’ll be able to
do it alone. Dentists should work with parents to educate their children on
the importance of a good dental hygiene. Increased awareness reduces
This may take a while, but if time permits, you can
employ systematic desensitisation
. This involves gradually exposing the child to aspects of dentistry they
are nervous about. If they are frightened of syringes, start by showing
them one and explaining its purpose. They can touch the handle if they
like. Next, place it near the child’s mouth and simulate injection, holding
the syringe for as long as a typical injection procedure.
While you do this, encourage relaxation strategies such as breathing
exercises. Your patient should feel better over time. It will also help to
surround your reception and office/theatre with positive images of the
Have a cuddly toy close
Some children may bring along their favourite toy for comfort- allow them
hold it during a procedure. For those who don’t, it is advisable to keep a
cute stuffed animal they can cuddle in your office. Some dentists name the
toy, for example, “Paddy the cuddly assistant”. This not only breaks the
ice, but eases your child patient into a comfortable mood.
I have seen some bravery badges given to children after a dental procedure.
This is good as it reinforces positive behaviour. Other dentists may have
temporary tattoos, stickers or stars
as an incentive. It is important to give them after the procedure and not
before, otherwise it becomes a ‘bribe’. Bribes are not good for helping
anxiety in the long run.
You could also set up a token system that allows a child ‘cash in’ on a
small treat after a successful visit.
Finally, it is always good to have a great smile, not just for your child
patients but adults too. Nothing reassures more than a happy dentist. If
you can, tell some jokes too (not everybody can be Steve Carell). Tell them
you just want them to have a beautiful smile- like yours.