My family's dental health is important to me. Unfortunately for me, it is not as important to my little ones. Getting my kids to brush and floss on a daily basis is almost like taking on an obstacle course. I talked to my family's dentist about different methods I could try to encourage them to brush and floss on a regular basis. Some of the tricks worked, some did not. After some experimentation and talking to other parents, I was able to come up with a lot of great tips for helping kids care for their teeth. I started this blog to help other parents get creative when it comes to their kids and dental care.
If your child is terrified of dental visits, you may be wondering how you can make this experience less stressful. Regular dental care is so important since a dentist can catch cavities, make sure the jaw is developing correctly, and recommend any restorations/orthodontic interventions. Here are four things you can do to help your child enjoy his or her dental appointment.
Choose a Pediatric Dentist Office
While family dentists work with a variety of people, pediatric dentists specialize in children's dental care. Pediatric dentist offices tend to be more friendly looking and less sterile than other options. While every office is different, pediatric dentist offices tend to have toys and activities in the waiting room, which can make the visit more enjoyable. Your child may feel less anxious at one of these offices and feel better about seeing many other patients that are around their age.
Ask About Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas," is a sedation method that is safe for children and can help them relax during procedures. Unlike other sedation methods, like general anesthesia, your child won't be completely under, so there are fewer complications—once the machine is off, it only takes a few minutes for the remnants of sedation to wear off.
Bring a Weighted Blanket
If your child has a weighted blanket, it could be beneficial to drape it over him or her during a dental appointment. Weighted blankets provide a calming sensory experience called proprioceptive input. Dentistry IQ says that proprioceptive input causes the brain to release serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that can help people feel relaxed and happy.
Visit an Office with an Emotional Support Dog
You may have heard of service dogs, which are trained to help people with disabilities or mental illness. Emotional support animals are a little different and don't require extensive training as service animals, but they can be incredibly helpful at providing companionship and helping people with phobias, like dental phobia. Some dental offices are bringing in emotional support dogs to lie on patients' laps. Your child can pet the dog, and the dog's weight may provide that proprioceptive input like a weighted blanket. Also, one study found that animal-assisted therapy in the dental office could help patients lower their blood pressure and improve the overall experience. Furthermore, the CDC says that as long as proper cleaning procedures are followed, these animals don't pose a significant risk of infection and work well in dental environments.
These are just a few ways to improve your child's anxiety. Reach out to a children's dentist in your area for more advice.