Going to the dentist can be stressful for children but it doesn’t have to be. We look at practical ways to prevent fears of the dentist and dental anxiety in kids.
With extreme dental anxiety affecting one in ten children, and more than half of all Australian six-year olds presenting evidence of tooth decay in their baby or adult teeth, educating children from a young age about the importance of maintaining good oral health is essential.
Between 60-90% of school children present issues of tooth decay, with severe periodontitis and untreated decay leading to pain and discomfort.
Dental Health Week runs from the 3rd -10th August and it’s an opportune time to educate parents on how to prevent dental anxiety in their kids.
Dr Padma Gadiyar, a dentist, healthcare consultant and technology innovator, shares her top five tips on how to eliminate fears of the dentist and dental anxiety from a young age:
1) Take your child for regular dental check-ups, not just when a problem arises
According to a study undertaken in 2019, 68% of children aged 5–10 are more likely to visit due to a dental problem, not for a regular check-up. The more regularly your child visits the dentist, the more comfortable they become with the process as they build trust with their dentist are more likely to have positive experiences due to less complications with their teeth. The longer you leave between appointments, the higher chance your child has of developing issues such as cavities which requires procedures that can lead to dental anxiety.
2) Gamify oral check-ups through the Smilo.ai app prior to dental appointments
Using AI, the Smilo.ai app allows your child to take a photo of their teeth in order to receive an oral health rating. Setting fun challenges for your child to increase their oral health rating encourages them to form positive oral health habits and prevents tooth decay for generations to come. The app empowers children to take control of their dental health and be aware of problems as they arise so they know what procedure to expect for their next dental appointment.
3) Educate your child about a ‘teeth friendly’ diet
To prevent tooth decay, ensure your child is aware of the benefits of a balanced and healthy diet with plenty of water. To ensure your child develops strong teeth and gums, avoid over consumption of foods such as lollies, chocolates and sugary drinks as these are key catalyst for cavities which can lead to dental anxiety.
4) Make the brushing process fun and enjoyable
Brushing for two minutes, twice a day as well as flossing daily is recommended. To make brushing more exciting, parents can use coloured toothbrushes or songs to encourage brushing. Instil a rule of no more eating after brushing.
5) Use a fluoride toothpaste
Using a fluoride toothpaste from the start of your child’s teeth journey is important for future decay prevention.
Dr Padma Gadiyar is a dentist, healthcare consultant and technology innovator with the creation of the Smilo.ai app. Smilo.ai is a world-first free to download app, using AI to provide oral health ratings, identifying unrecognised or hidden dental decay and gum disease, as well as dental blogs, ask-a-dentist forums and reminders for your next appointment. Ideal for all individuals, particularly those in regional areas, the elderly and with the limitations forced upon us by COVID-19, smilo.ai is all about giving individual’s control of their dental health.
How do your kids feel about going to the dentist? What strategies have you used to overcome dental anxiety? Tell us in the comments below.