Dental Anxiety – My child is anxious at the dentist what should I do?

We recently received an email from one of our clients grown-ups after a trip to the dentist, which they have allowed us to share (anonymised), so that we can help other children that might also find the dentist challenging.

This is how we responded:

Dear x

Firstly it sounds like you did really well in a challenging situation and the fact you are asking for advice shows what a caring parent you are.

Parenting is challenging and sometimes things don’t go to plan and we don’t always have time to practice our responses. Forgiving ourselves and learning from experience is key. 

Next time you visit the dentist you will be able to put things in place to make the next visit a much better one for all involved.

Here are a few simple tips to help when you next go to the dentist:

  • Recognise that the next visit to the dentist may also be a trigger not only for your child but for yourself, check in with yourself; are you feeling calm about the appointment and giving off calm vibes?
  • Visualise yourself going in calmly to the appointment not imagining what could go wrong.
  • Be your child’s emotional anchor.  
  • As you have highlighted schedule time before the appointment so that you can create a calm zone before going to the dentist especially if its after school so your daughter has time to unwind from the day.
  • A calm zone can include soft relaxing music if your child finds it helpful or a nice relaxing drink and a snack or a read of their favourite book.
  • Use a calm voice and present calm body language before and at the appointment – children tend to mirror adults around them and can easily pick up on stress.
  • Pick something to take with them that will help them to feel calm and happy maybe a favourite teddy .
  • Play acting events that are coming up in a really positive way can be a game changer.  You can use toys and teddies as props to help and add an even more fun and familiar element.
  • Some children really appreciate visual aids so you could pop a friendly picture of a dentist on the calendar for them to see.

Some children find it useful to be gently reminded of their schedule so that they feel more in control. You might like to include detail about the schedule and remind them in the days leading up to the appointment.  Such as

“I will pick you up from school tomorrow, we will have a drink and a snack, then we will drive to the dentist and then we will come home when you can then have your favourite programme on for a while.”

This way you are mentally helping your daughter to prepare, it is important to then stick to that routine and structure so that she feels safe and knows what to expect.

Let us know how the next visit goes and remember you can always help x to step into her calm bubble (practising this before will help) before she goes in.

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