Oral health is seen as a gateway to one’s overall health. The mouth is the main entry point to your digestive and respiratory system. When it gets infected with bacteria or suffers complications, the organs it leads to also suffer. The best way to deal with these issues is to prevent them with regular dental checkups and, if applicable, treatment. In fact, it’s recommended to take children to the clinic as early as their first birthday. However, for some kids, a single bad or even just uncomfortable experience can lead to a fear of dentists, also known as dentophobia.
What Is Dentophobia?
Dentophobia is a significant fear of going to the dentist. People of all ages can develop it. Dentophobia is linked to other medical-related phobias like fear of doctors or iatrophobia. The fear can range from mild to severe. Some only go to the dentist when it’s absolutely needed, while others avoid going to clinics entirely. This issue can be triggered by different factors, such as:
- Previous experience. In an interview with WebMD, director of University of Seattle’s Dental Fears Research Clinic Peter Milgrom, DDS stated that two-thirds of people fear the dentist because of previous bad experiences in the clinic. Your kid may not like going to the dentist because of the possible pain, numbness, and even the loss of control of being in a dental chair.
- Existing disorders. For others, dentophobia may be a side effect of an existing mood, anxiety, or other mental disorder.
No matter how your kid got their dentophobia, it’s important for them to overcome it. Not being able to get treatment for a possible oral health problem can lead to a variety of health issues. Fortunately, this problem can be treated.
How to Manage Dentophobia
There are a variety of ways to help your child effectively manage dentophobia, especially if their fear is mild. Here are some of them.
- Choose the Right Dentist. You can trust any dentist with a degree and license to provide quality dental care. However, not everyone works well with kids. Look for one that specializes in pediatric dentistry. Once you have a shortlist of dentists, look at their reviews on their site or listing platforms like Google My Business and Yelp. See if parents approve of their methods.
Some dentists may also offer innovative techniques such as digital orthodontics, which lessens the need for possibly gag-reflex-inducing methods to check the health of your kids’ teeth. These pediatric dentists should definitely be at the top of your list.
Remember, it only takes one bad experience for your kid to develop dentophobia. It’s worth the time and effort to ensure your kid’s dentist can calm them down and give them a pleasant dental checkup and treatment session every time.
- Tell the truth, but leave out the horror stories. Face it, you’ve probably had a few uncomfortable and even painful experiences in the clinic, especially if you experienced getting oral implants. Unfortunately, it’s all part of the process to make sure you get the treatment you need. However, your kid may not understand it yet. So, they might get extremely anxious upon hearing your stories about your dental visits.
Provide straight-to-the-point and honest answers to their questions. You can also tell them to reserve their questions for the dentist themself. Professional pediatric dentists know how to respond to them in a completely non-threatening way.
- Provide comfort during treatment. Sometimes, discomfort unavoidable during dentist and doctor visits. Prepare yourself for possible fussing and tantrums from your kid. If possible, stay by their side during checkup and treatment. If not, be in a spot where they can see you. You could also ask the dentist what you should do in case your child starts whining or crying. Some may let you hold your kid’s hand, while others prefer that you stay a few steps away.
- Get help from a mental health professional. As discussed earlier, dentophobia may be part of a preexisting mental health disorder. If your child continues to have problems during their dental visits, it may be time to consult a mental health professional. They’ll provide treatment options that help your kid manage their anxieties and fear in all aspects of their life, including routine dental checkups and treatment.
One’s oral health is a window into their overall wellness. As such, it’s vital or your child to get regular checkups and treatment with a dentist. However, previous experiences or preexisting disorders may make it difficult for them to go on much-needed visits. Use these suggestions to ease and manage their dentophobia. They’re well worth it when you see your kid smile with bright and healthy teeth.