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Navigating Dental Anxiety in Children

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Navigating Dental Anxiety in Children

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. Anxious Patients Articles
  4. Navigating Dental Anxiety in Children
Navigating Dental Anxiety In Children In Brisbane, Wavell Heights, Clayfield In Sure Dental

When you’re a lucky kid, you have parents of genes and means. They pass down their strong bones and teeth, your home is lovely and comfortable, and drives to school are in a car recognised for its safety features.

Inside your Kånken backpack, a gel cooler keeps your bento box lunch and recess snacks at the right temperature. Cleaning your teeth twice a day is easy. Your themed electric toothbrush gives two minutes of tinkly music to brusha-brusha-brusha with those especially designed smaller heads for children.

Your parents keep on you about regular brushing, and they took the time to oversee, and gently correct how you do it. They look at your teeth and inside your mouth regularly. You’ve been drilled on never using your teeth to unscrew a bottle, or rip open a bag; and in your house nobody chews on ice, tears at fingernails or crunches down on hard, hard lollies.

Lucky kids have been going to the dentist even before they were in the chair with mum and dad’s regular six-monthly check-ups treated like a bit of an adventure.

The family dentist is familiar and friendly person to these kids, and they call each other by name on sight. For these kids, although there are particular smells attached to being in the clinic, and sometimes weird sounds can be heard, but it’s far from a scary place to be.

It’s stylish and modern with free wi-fi, iPads and even Netflix for waiting patients or patient kids waiting.

It even has books and toys. With your parent in another room spending time in the dentist’s chair, imagining you’re inside a spaceship is easy. Seeing state-of-the-art dental technology, and being surrounded by all that curved-edged décor is the prompt to activate the time-traveller option, chuck it in reverse and check out those printed books and non-electronic toys.

When it comes to dentistry, lucky kids are lucky.

Which is not to suggest that lucky kids never suffer from dental anxiety, or the nervousness that can come with the first experiences of having an examination.

It’s a weird thing, being in an electronic chair, wearing safety glasses and having a light manoeuvred to better see into your cake-hole. It’s confronting to have someone who’s not a relative so close to your face. And all those sterilised metal tools on hand … woah! However, chances are that the circumstance of lucky kids allows them to be patients of a better resourced and more highly equipped clinic.

Headphones and a video screen to help distract, and relax in the chair are there. More often than not, lucky kids aren’t arriving in extreme pain, under emergency conditions where a decayed tooth needs immediate extraction as a terrifying, very first time they’ve ever been seen by a dentist.

Certainly, lucky kids can be extremely unlucky; like any kid can be. Because they’re kids, they can smash their front teeth falling off their bike, or slipping by the pool or cop a hit in the mouth with a ball or an elbow playing sport.

Grommets don’t wear helmets and mouth guards.

It’s heartbreaking stuff when a kid suffers an injury beyond a scraped knee and a bruise or two. A broken bone is bad enough. Broken or damaged teeth is on every parent’s nightmare list.

A kid not ending up with a good set of permanent teeth they’ll have for the rest of their life, doesn’t always happen in an instant by accident.

Commonly, it happens in adulthood as a result of the untreated dental anxiety they suffered as a kid.

These are people who don’t have a regular dentist. They never make those twice-yearly appointments. They think that brushing your teeth (even routinely, and well) is all you need to do. When they look in the mirror their front teeth look alright. From what they can see when they open their mouth, it all looks pretty good.

That gum inflammation and bleeding that sometimes flares up eventually goes away. It just takes salt water rinses and mixing up a lemongrass oil mouthwash. These people know they should floss; but none of their friends do, and they all have nice smiles.

Childhood dental anxiety guarantees that as an adult, there will be five years or more between dental visits: and they’ll only happen because they absolutely have to.

The agony of a toothache, or the unbearable pain of a gum infection that necessitates the removal of a tooth, are the kinds of reasons that force anxiety-kid-turned-adult to seek the expertise of a dentist.

The heartbreaking bit in this scenario is that without the fear, their once perfectly good teeth would have been properly cared for with more regular oral health checks. The irreversible damage of acute gum disease, or the need for root canals, dental implants or dentures could have been completely avoided under the watchful eye and experience of a skilled dentist.

Dental health clinicians see the possibility of periodontitis when gingivitis turns up.

Gingivitis is easily treated, and there’s no permanent damage. Having six-monthly check-ups with a dentist who knows your history means that issues like this don’t recur – and they certainly don’t progress. Bruxism is quite common; and it can cause cracked and chipped teeth, along with intense jaw pain and changes in bite. Often but not always the result of stress, it needs to be professionally remedied.

Sometimes patients aren’t aware that they grind their teeth excepting that it’s the story their teeth tells their dentist and their dentist tells them.

(Ah. So that explains the headaches and mouth tenderness…)

It’s often thought that being a lucky kid with parents able to pay for dentistry and orthodontics is has the end story of being a lucky adult with teeth to be proud of. So, so sadly it’s not always the case.

It is more than possible to give your kids the lifetime gift of having and maintaining great oral health.

Firstly, if you have a not-so-positive attitude to oral health and the care that’s needed to manage and maintain that, don’t pass it on to your children.

Dentists and their teams are caring and compassionate professionals who are trained with all the assistance you need to deal with any level of discomfort or terror the thought of dental procedures can bring.

Let them help you, so that you can break that cycle that can so negatively impact your children. No doubt you’ll teach them how to look after their car; this is the mechanics of their mouth. It’s unlikely you’d suggest that they do their own servicing and bleed their own brakes when they’ll never be qualified to do such things.

Have your kids love the sense of achievement that comes with seeing their dentist and hygienist and there’s nothing to treat – just a routine professional clean. Instead of numbing gel and a shot, all they’re given is praise. It’s this external encouragement that has them gladly brush their teeth properly, at least twice a day without fail. They’ll floss, because they’ve been taught in the dentist’s chair about the value and importance of doing it, and how to do it efficiently.

Navigating Dental Anxiety In Children In Brisbane, Wavell Heights, Clayfield At Sure Dental

Paediatric dentists are the great beginning to a happy dental ending and they’re not the only one. Any good general dentist is: and let’s face it, the majority of dentists are great at their job. You don’t do all those years of study and training to be clumsy and crap at an intensely demanding career of your choice.

Keep in mind that to a kid, the world is a safe place and everything’s an adventure.

The garbage truck turning up is an undiluted thrill, water from a hose is magic. Hearing a cat purr and knowing that a dog farted are the funniest things in the universe.

This is the space they live in, and this is the space you want them to be in for as long as is possible. There’s no reason for a dental appointment to change that. Dentists happily support this lovely part of childhood. They’ll refer to themselves as the Tooth Fairy’s best friend, and offer a ride in the dental chair.

Sometimes parents are under the mistaken belief that there’s no need to see the Tooth Fairy’s 2IC until your child has a full set of teeth.

The truth is that dentistry is about more than teeth: it’s about jaw alignment, bite, gum stability an overall oral health. Importantly, it’s about taking the opportunity to imprint a positive dental experience that pays off for the rest of their life. Many, many dental issues exist purely because of the long-term fear associated with being in the dentist’s chair.

The earlier your child visits the dentist the better. It’s like Vegemite. Being introduced to it when you’re little has you love it the rest of your life. Try it for the first time as an adult and … well, you’ve seen the Youtube videos.

As a rule of sucked thumb, the first dental visit should be when your baby’s first tooth is visible (audible!) or when they turn one, whichever comes first.

Of course if it seems that there’s something out of the ordinary before then, let your better-to-be-safe-than-sorry hormone kick in and make the appointment. Don’t overthink it with not wanting to appear overreactive if it’s nothing: we do plenty of things throughout our lives that have us feel stupid and it hasn’t killed us yet.

It’s useful to not be the adult telling a child that they have to be “brave” (..because it’s scary?), or use the dentist as the handy stick at bedtime (if-you-don’t-brush-your–teeth-the-dentist-will-have-to-pull-them-out). Even if it’s said in a jokey, fantasy character way, it’s unlikely to change the brushing habits of a kid when the outcome essentially instills fear. Certainly, if you’ve ever had a dental experience that was far from pleasant you want to be keeping it to yourself.

There is a presupposition that the quality of communication is the response you get: so if the morning and nightly brushing routines have become neither routine, or without tears, bribery and cajoling then it’s time to reassess how you’re doing things.

Exhausted-parent thinking is a way of life; there is no harder job than loving and nurturing a human from before they’re even born.

So take some pressure off, hand it to a professional and take your kid for an exciting trip to the dentist! Have them make the appointment if they’re old enough; and at least have them listen to your call. Make it memorable and fun because too much of that is never enough.

No matter how old you are.

If you like, you can choose to have a paediatric dentist – children are their specialty and their clinics are the ultimate in kid-friendly. Be assured though, that all good family dentists and their teams are trained and experienced in dealing with children. Just because there are no Bananas in Pyjamas coming down the stairs is no indication that you and your child won’t receive the best treatment a professional can give.

Kids are kids, and little kids are little kids: they all behave like children because they’re supposed to; for them, there’s no other way. Things can be too new, and too overwhelming. They can’t throw down a scotch or go for a drive, so they just chuck it all together and listen to the beat of the crazy.

The first visit to the dentist is a momentous occasion and a milestone in your life as a parent. Like any of the firsts: first haircut, first steps, first word, first day. Make a project of it if that’s your thing. For them to relax, certainly you must. Like dogs, they’ll pick up on your nervousness. It’s a big day for you too, so stay in the room with them if they’re comforted by your presence. Some kids like to do new things all on their own.

Dentists are kid-whisperers. If your daughter or son isn’t behaving the way you’d like, it’s not a reflection of you. Just hand over the reins. If they’re not being quiet, so what, it’s normal. The dental team is trained in how to comfort babies, toddlers and school-age kids in having them calm and comfortable during the examination.

Like that dragon story, a parent’s responsibility is neverending. Ask the dentist any questions you like about your child’s oral health. Let them show you and your child how to brush their teeth properly. Be open to changing what you thought you already knew.

Your dentist will have age-appropriate discussions with your kid about many things: getting new teeth, brushing techniques, how chewing works, thumb or finger sucking, decay risk, and the foods to eat (and not eat!) so that their precious teeth are treated in the way that has them last forever.

Take it all in, and congratulate yourself for the all the good choices you’ve already made to keep your child healthy and happy.

Your dentist has your child’s optimum oral health at heart – and for most little kids it’s in a fine state already. Keep it that way. Know that having these good habits form early is the best gift you could ever give: setting them up for a lifetime of fantastic oral health.

That’s how you make every kid a lucky kid.


The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Sure Dental does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.

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