Fear of the unknown is common to everyone, not just children. So it goes without saying that a child’s anticipation of his or her first trip to the dentist can produce a great deal of anxiety, especially if they don’t know what to expect. According to Dentistry Today, “it has been found that 19.5% of school age children are afraid of dentists.” The European Journal of Dentistry published a study designed to assess the attitudes of children toward dentists. This study included 583 school children ranging in age from 9 to 12 years. It was concluded in the study that children have very distinct beliefs and impressions about dentists and dental visits. Of the children in the study, 64% liked their visit, 11% didn’t like it, 12% were afraid. The fear of having to have local anesthetic and fear of tooth extraction were the most common reasons for not liking going to the dentist.
There are several ways parents and dental professionals can help a child overcome the fear of dental visits. These methods all center around providing as much information to the child as possible.
Be A Good Role Model: Be calm and encouraging as you discuss your child’s upcoming visit to the dentist. Make the process seem normal and familiar.
Role Play: Role playing is a great way to educate your child. Set up a “play dentist office” in your home and pretend that you are the dentist. Pretend to check your child’s teeth and count his teeth. Discuss how great it will be to have clean and polished teeth. After the pretend visit, give your child a sticker, a toy or a fake tattoo. This will prepare the child for the real visit.
Books About the Dentist: Some examples are: Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer) by Christine Ricci and “Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer, and Behold! No Cavities! A Visit to the Dentist (SpongeBob Squarepants) by Nickelodeon.
Start Early: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that the child’s first visit starts by the age of one year, or when the first tooth is visible. This will start the child’s dental care off right, and also will establish a safe and familiar place for future visits.
Consider Looking for a “Child-Friendly” Dental Office: The earlier- mentioned study done by the European Journal of Dentistry mentions that children expressed a preference for decorated rather than plain dental offices. Bright colors and funny characters and friendly staff can make for a happier, more relaxed young patient.
KidZaam Dentistry, with offices in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Cottonwood and Phoenix, Arizona are specifically designed to entertain children and put them at ease the moment they enter the KidZaam offices. KidZaam’s founding dentist, Dr. Albert Higgins, DDS, created “Dentaltainment”, a nationally known movement in the dental industry that focuses on the comfort and emotions of the child in order to produce a happy and memorable experience in the child patient.