The importance of addressing fear and anxiety in children
It’s a typical day in an Australian dental practice.
A child clings to her parents as they enter the reception area. You can see the fear on her face as her parents show their discomfort. As they enter the treatment room, they seem completely unfamiliar with the equipment and environment.
As a paediatric dentist and a full-time clinician, it’s common to see stressed parents accompanying a fearful child who requires extensive dental treatment. In my practice, we also get referrals of children that have had a rough time at the dentist or are very upset about the required treatment.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Drilling down into paediatric dental fear
Paediatric dental fear has wide-ranging repercussions for children and their teeth. Over 40% of Australian children between 5 and 10 years old have decay in their baby teeth.
Unfortunately, dental phobias are often formed at an early age. As such, dental fear in children must not be ignored — and it’s vital that parents know that specialist paediatric dental services are available to achieve outcomes that protect both their children’s teeth and emotional wellbeing.
Paediatric dentists are specially trained to set young patients at ease. We know how to spot the earliest indicators of stress, anxiety or fear in children. What’s more, we use a host of tactics to quell these feelings. We know when to give kids a break, reassure children by taking things one small step at a time and ensuring parents are nearby, visible and able to offer comfort to their children. We also understand that common kids’ dental fears centre on:
- actual or anticipated pain
- uncertainty of what is coming next and the dental process