How can my kid overcome dental anxiety for tooth extraction?

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a common condition among children causing them to feel fearful, nervous or anxious about visiting the dentist. It can range from mild to severe and can be triggered by a variety of factors, including the fear of pain, negative past dental experiences, or a sense of vulnerability.

Why is it important to overcome dental anxiety for tooth extraction?

Overcoming dental anxiety is especially important if a tooth extraction is required. With the right knowledge and support, children can have a positive experience with tooth extraction. Here are some reasons children feel anxious about this procedure, as well as tips on how to settle them.

Causes of dental anxiety

Fear of pain or discomfort

One of the most common causes of dental anxiety is the fear of experiencing pain or discomfort during a dental procedure like tooth extraction. This fear can be triggered by past dental experiences, stories from others, or a general fear of needles or medical procedures.

Fear of needles or injections

For some people, the fear of needles or injections can cause significant anxiety when visiting the dentist. This fear may be related to a past negative experience or may simply be a phobia.

Negative past dental experiences

Negative past dental experiences, such as painful or traumatic procedures, can also contribute to dental anxiety. These experiences can create a sense of fear or anxiety that is triggered when facing similar situations, such as a tooth extraction.

Embarrassment or shame

Embarrassment or shame about the condition of one’s teeth or the need for tooth extraction can also contribute to dental anxiety. These feelings may be related to social stigma or a fear of being judged by others.

Lack of control or feeling vulnerable

Dental procedures can make some people feel vulnerable or out of control, which can contribute to dental anxiety. This feeling may be related to a fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding about the procedure, or general discomfort with medical settings.

Coping strategies for dental anxiety

  • Practice deep breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or focusing on slow, deep breaths.
  • Use distraction methods like listening to music, watching videos or virtual reality headsets to take your child’s mind off the dental procedure.
  • Talk to your child’s dentist about your child’s anxiety and fears, to help them better understand your concerns and work with you to develop a plan to manage them. Your dentist may be able to offer additional support, such as extra time to answer questions or explain the procedure in more detail.
  • For some children, sedation options like nitrous oxide or oral sedation can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation during the dental procedure. Discuss these options with your dentist in advance to determine if they are appropriate
  • Support from a therapist or support group can be helpful for children with severe dental anxiety or phobia. These resources can provide additional coping strategies and emotional support to help manage anxiety related to dental procedures.

Preparing for tooth extraction with dental anxiety

1. Before the tooth extraction procedure, have an open and honest conversation with your dentist about any concerns or fears you may have. This allows the dentist to address your specific worries and develop a plan to help your child feel more comfortable and at ease.
2. It can also be helpful to ask questions about the tooth extraction procedure and what to expect during and after the procedure. This can help to alleviate fears related to the unknown and provide a better understanding of the process.
3. Having a trusted friend or family member present during the tooth extraction appointment can provide emotional support and help to reduce feelings of anxiety. This person can also help to ask questions or communicate with the dentist if needed.
4. Choosing a comfortable and familiar environment for the tooth extraction procedure can also help to reduce anxiety. This may include choosing a dental office that you are familiar with or bringing items that provide comfort, such as a favourite blanket or pillow.

Post-extraction care and recovery

  • After tooth extraction, it is common for your child to experience some pain and discomfort, so your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relief or prescribe medication to manage the pain. You can also reduce discomfort by applying an ice pack to the affected area and choosing cold, soft foods.
  • Follow proper oral hygiene and care instructions after a tooth extraction to promote healing and reduce the risk of infection. Your dentist may advise you to rinse your mouth with salt water, refrain from using straws, and be gentle when brushing the surrounding teeth. Also be sure to avoid hot, hard or crunchy foods.
  • Your child’s dentist will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor healing and ensure that there are no complications. It is important to attend this appointment and communicate any concerns or issues with your dentist. If your child experiences prolonged pain, bleeding, or signs of infection, contact your dentist immediately.

Helping your child experience a more comfortable tooth extraction improves their prospects for lifelong oral health. You can be confident that your care and effort at this stage makes a big difference to your child, with benefits that flow on long after the procedure.

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