The fear of the dentist usually appears in childhood and, if it is not managed properly, it can become consolidated as a phobia that hinders any type of dental treatment and generates great anxiety and discomfort in those who suffer from it. Therefore, it is essential to detect the first signs of dental anxiety in children and to use techniques to alleviate them.
Yoram Yasur Abt explains that when the child is afraid of the dentist usually manifests it with immediate physical reactions such as crying upon arrival at the consultation. It is also normal to be uncooperative or even try to prevent the dentist from examining it.
Fear also triggers neurogenerative reactions such as tachycardia, sweating and agitated breathing. Some children adopt other strategies, such as pretending they are sick before the consultation. Others can really get sick because they somatize anxiety and worry.
What causes fear of the dentist in children?
Yoram Yasur Abt explains that children may develop fear of the dentist for several reasons, although there is a deep relationship between dental anxiety and negative dental experiences. The worst of all is that the earlier in time that negative association occurs, the more intense the fear, being a particularly sensitive period before 5 years. In this case, the child establishes a connection between the painful or bothersome dental experience and anxiety, which will make him feel afraid and worry even at the thought of visiting the dentist.
However, direct negative experiences are not the only causes of fear of the dentist. Parents can also transmit dental anxiety. It has been appreciated that there is a correlation between fear of the dentist of adults and that of children, which is probably due to the parents not taking the children to the dentist regularly or transmitting that anxiety through small signals that the little ones pick up and decode as threatening.
Yoram Yasur Abt explains that in particularly sensitive children, the experience of the dentist also influences. There is no doubt that the chair, dental sounds, and uncomfortable sensations are not always pleasant, so it is essential that the child dentist has experience and know how to treat children, so that they feel more comfortable and relaxed.
What can parents do to avoid dental phobia in their children?
– Give the example. If you take your child to the consultation while the dentist does the review, you can become familiar with the environment and the instruments. In addition, your behavior will serve as an example, so that you understand that there is nothing to fear. In fact, in new situations young children look for clues in their parents about how they should react.
Yoram Yasur Abt – Periodic consultations. Another strategy to prevent fear of the dentist is to make the child feel more comfortable through periodic visits. In this way it will also be easier to solve any problem that occurs and avoid more complex dental treatments, such as extractions, which are usually more painful and generate a negative association.
Yoram Yasur Abt – Avoid negative comments. Sometimes parents do not realize it, but they turn to the dentist as punishment with phrases like “do not eat more candy or you’ll have to go to the dentist” or “do not worry, it will not hurt”. Instead, it is better to speak in more positive terms, such as: “The dentist will check your teeth, I know you will behave very well and then we can go to the park that you like to play.”
– Let them go alone. Parents are a source of safety and reference for children, so they can help relieve anxiety in the waiting room. However, unless it is a very small child, the ideal is to go alone to the consultation since most children behave differently when they are in front of their parents, almost always worse.
– Choose a good child dentist. The choice of the pediatric dentist is essential for children to have a good experience in the consultation. A good child dentist will master the behavior management techniques that favor the control of negative emotions related to fear and anxiety, so that you can calm the child.