Being afraid of the dentist is common, but dentophobia is a heightened fear of the dentist. It’s estimated that over 75% of adults in the US experience some kind of anxiety associated with going to see the dentist. Somewhere between 5%-10% of those adults experience such intense fear that it can be defined as dentophobia.
Dentophobia is driven by cultural associations and other associated fears. Dentists are often portrayed in movies and TV shows as cold and unforgiving. The fear of authoritative figures, pain, gagging, sounds, and needles can also spark the development of dentophobia.
Children fear the dentist for the same reason adults do: they’ve likely already had negative experiences with needles, pain, loud sounds, and authoritative figures. However, the main way children can develop dentophobia is through the example of their parents.
Whether you realize it or not, parents are going to naturally transfer their fears to their children. Children are not only perceptive, but they are also likely to mimic their parents, especially when it comes to fear. Expressing your own worries about the dentist may unintentionally be sparking your child’s own anxiety. Even though you, as an adult, are mature enough to know that the dentist will benefit you despite your nervousness, your child may not.
Luckily, there are proven ways to overcome the dentist chair jitters. At Fresh Dental Care, we can discuss their worries and questions before and during their visit. With the right preparation and attitude, your child will be able to overcome their anxiety and fear.
The first thing to remember is to not overshare. You should let your child know what a dentist does, but in very non-technical and non-threatening terms. Explain things in a way they can understand and avoid words like shot, pain, needle, and drill.
Another helpful tip is to keep your answers to their questions short. If they have a question you can’t answer, tell them that they can save it for the dentist. We’re trained to answer tough questions in non-menacing ways.
Even if you feel led to, try not to empathize. You may just end up adding more negative images to their mind, though it seems relatable. Focus instead on support and compassion rather than your own personal experiences.
You can also tell your child how important it is to have healthy teeth and gums. Your child already associates smiling with happiness – let them know that their smile will be even better after they visit the dentist. Stressing this during normal teeth brushing also can help them have an overall more positive view of their dental health.
Finally, try not to use bribery. By offering a treat beforehand, you may give your child the idea that the dentist visit will be a struggle. You wouldn’t offer a reward for something easy or fun. Plus, offering sweets may neutralize the effect of the message of good dental hygiene. Instead, you could praise your child for their bravery after the fact, and maybe offer a sticker or small toy as a reward.
As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed with helping your child feel comfortable at the dentist. But at Fresh Dental Care, we’re prepared to help your child overcome their nervousness.
For excellent pediatric dentistry care, make an appointment with us today.