Child’s Dread of the Dentist – It’s one thing for an adult to suffer from dental anxiety. But even if you harbor a deep-seated fear of the dentist, chances are you still stick to a rigid routine of brushing after every meal, flossing once per day, limiting your sweets and sweet drinks intake, and engaging in regular checkups plus cleanings with a dental practice near you, just like Napa Family Dental, an ABQ family dentist in New Mexico.
But for little children, their dread of the dentist can be nothing less than traumatic. According to a new report, it doesn’t matter if it’s your child who is begging to skip his or her next dental appointment or the child of a good friend who is terrified of having to sit in a dental chair, the acute dental anxiety that young children suffer is a very real concern.
The overall problem with dental anxiety in kids is that it can get worse with time if left unchecked. This will make it difficult, if not impossible, to properly maintain your child’s dental and oral health.
However, the experts all attest that kids need not fear dental visits and that it is indeed possible to lessen your child or children’s dental dread with no sedation and/or medication needed.
Defining Dental Anxiety
Dental experts define dental dread or dental anxiety as “fear related to seeking or receiving dental care.” But what does fear of the dentist precisely mean? Lots, if not most, people like going to a dentist, but that doesn’t mean they harbor a fear of going. Dental anxiety is said to lie in “the territory of fear.”
Said to be a multisystem response by the body, anxiety was engineered so that we are better able to perceive a threat and/or imminent danger. It is characterized by biochemical alterations in the brain and body, the social situation, and the patient’s personal memory and history.
Or put another way, as humans, we’re prone to anxiety simply because we can imagine or remember not-so-pleasant things. The outcome is fear. For instance, your child could have a friend who’s suffered multiple cavities, and the friend describes to your child how he or she had to endure multiple painful drillings or even a pulled tooth. That said, even if your child’s oral and dental health is excellent, he or she might now dread the dentist.
Here are some basic fears a child might typically harbor when it comes to going to the dentist.
Fear of Breathing Obstruction
Fear of obstructed breathing isn’t discussed much, but experts say it’s common in children. Metal instruments, cotton rolls, the dentist’s latex glove-covered fingers, and the rubber dam are airway restricting procedures that can often trigger a child’s gag reflex. This alone is said to elicit “primal fear.”
A child instinctually knows when to cough, gag, and even vomit to remove obstructions to their normal breathing. Without this instinct, a child would not survive very long.
Children who are “mouth-breathers” have a worse time at the dentist since their gag reflex is even more sensitive. This gag reflex is not altogether different from what makes waterboarding torture so effective.
Fear of Acute Pain
Nobody likes pain. But for kids, pain is at the very heart of their dental dread. In the not-so-distant past, this dread was entirely warranted. Dentists once regarded baby teeth as being connected to no nerves. At most, a child was given a dose of nitrous oxide to calm them down prior to the extraction procedure.
Dentists know better now. But there is still some pain that goes with most dental procedures. If your child insists his or her dentist made them feel bad or hurt, this could very well indicate that the doctor hasn’t properly provided the right amount of pain killer or anesthetic.
Adults still experiencing dental dread are likely to have experienced dental trauma in their childhood, such as a tooth that broke at its roots when extracted. This can tragically lead to a lifetime of canceled appointments, along with poor oral and dental health.
Fear of Helplessness
To the experts, fear of helplessness or losing all control is one major cause of dental anxiety directly related to the fear of acute pain. A child is unaware that the big adult holding the shiny metal drilling tools is in total charge of the situation. If discomfort and pain accompany the procedure, the child feels out of control.
Ultimately, the dentist and the parent should take a few moments before a dental procedure and explain exactly what will happen to the child and how the child might feel emotionally and physically. The dentist should also often ask the child how he or she feels during the procedure.