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Childs Fear Of The Dentist And Anxiety About Teeth

by Lisa
(Boston)

Annie,
My 7 year old daughter has anxiety about going to the dentist. Thankfully it is only twice a year, but each visit is full of tears and extreme anxiety. This probably stems back to a filling she had to get at a young age, but how do I convince her that every visit will not be painful or result in a filling?

She also has anxiety about her teeth and is scared of brushing her teeth (some are loose) effectively. As a result she has awful looking teeth (yellowish, covered in plaque) and bad breath all the time. How can I get her to brush better?

Thanks

Lisa

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Helping Kids With Dental Anxiety
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Lisa,

Dentists can be scary places for kids, particularly if they have had an unpleasant experience in the past.

And now that she has an issue about her teeth, then the whole thing has been compounded.

With regards to home, start making it fun. There is most likely a whole lot of drama and irritation from you trying to make her brush her teeth, and the whole issue will have become very dramatic. So drop the fight about it, and very calmly tell her you are going to work together to find a way to make brushing teeth fun.

Then get creative about ways to make a game out of it. Here's a few ideas, but ask her to contribute ideas too, and you may be surprised.

She can brush in the shower, or in the bath with a mirror and cup. Changing the location shifts a bit of energy, and with a mirror she can have a good look in her mouth and see what she is doing. You can even get a dental kit and "play" dentists.

Go shopping with her and choose a new toothbrush - there are plenty of cool toothbrushes now - or if she is willing to experiment, try an electric toothbrush.

Get a timer and put her in control of the timer - with one stipulation, that the time on the timer increases each night - even if it is only 1 second.

Then first have her brush YOUR teeth! Talk her through it, but make it humorous - with a mouthful of toothpaste! "Wait wait you missed a bit - get right to the back, don't forget the insides, how about my tongue etc"

Then you take a turn to do her teeth for the amount of time on the timer that she agrees to. Even if she only starts with 20 seconds. Don't fight, don't argue, work really fast and make it silly, make stupid noises, get her giggling as the seconds count down.

Eventually build up to her doing her own teeth. Or she may be happier to be the one in control rather than you doing it. Go with her energy, and remember keep it fun!

Part Two Follows . . .

Helping Kids With Dental Anxiety
by: Annie Desantis

Making it fun takes the fight out of it and starts to anchor in some good feelings around teethbrushing. Then when she has clean teeth (or partly clean if you only did 20 secs!) Make a big fuss of kissing your lovely clean daughter, "Yum Yum you smell so good, I could eat you up" and kissy tickle her off to bed." The more she gets positive stuff from you and associates it with teeth brushing the better.

You could also try a rewards system. Find out from her what she thinks would be a good thing to work towards. Say she wants to go to the movies with you - have her earn movie stars, and each night if she increases her brushing by 10 seconds, she gets a star. Work out how long it would be to get to the point of having enough stars for a special Mom day at the Movies. Or what ever she is motivated to work towards it could be a toy she is keen on. But again, keep the focus on fun, rather on you enforcing her to brush her teeth for a reward. The more you anchor in fun, the less traumatic it will be.

Now regarding trips to the dentist - one thing that works really well for this is EFT. Emotional Freedom Technique - or tapping as we call it, is a simple technique using tapping on different points - using similar points as acupuncture. EFT is brilliant for tapping out trauma and lowering anxiety and stress. And in my EFT for kids program I actually have a script for tapping out dentist anxiety that parents can modify. We have a forum too, where you can ask any questions and I also will do a personal script if you want help modifying.

Part Three Follows . . .

Helping Kids With Dental Anxiety
by: Annie Desantis

Another option would be to have someone else take her to the dentist. I suspect she will not have nearly the same drama if you are not there. If you have someone that is upbeat and positive and doesn't have to drag her into the room, first of all you don't have to deal with it, and secondly she may get the experience of coping a bit better. But that may not be the case.

Some Dentists are really child orientated, and it can be worth making an appointment for yourself and having her come along to be the assistant. If she can see the tools, and have a conversation about how they are used and what happens to her teeth, then it may take away some of the anxiety. Anxiety is usually to do with our imaginations. Our mind builds all sorts of scenarios around something unpleasant and it ends up being MUCH bigger than the reality. Having a non threatening chat with the Dentist, and not being pressured may ease her into the whole process instead of just two dramatic visits each year.

The Colgate website has lots of games and activities to help teach kids about the importance of taking care of our teeth. This could be another fun way to help her to shift some of the anxiety, and means the information is coming from the computer, not just Mom trying to make me do something I don't want to do.

You can also see if there is any professional services in your area that could help - NLP or hypnosis could be options that in this kind of issue would most likely work. If she is severely traumatized then she may need some help to shift it. (Though I would recommend trying EFT for Kids first.)

Good luck, let us know how you go,
and share any other ideas you may come up with.

all the best,
Annie D :)

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