Dental anxiety is common in children and adults alike, which can be a difficult obstacle to navigate when your child needs braces. Helping your child cope with their fear can be a long process, but there are several steps you can take to help them feel safe, comfortable, and communicative when they need to go to the orthodontist.
Find an Orthodontist Your Child Likes
One of the best ways to help your child with their fear is to let them see an orthodontist they can get along with and one who makes them feel comfortable. An orthodontist should help your child feel at ease during visits. This doesn't mean your child won't still be afraid, but it does mean that they will feel more comfortable speaking up about their fears and discomforts. If they trust their orthodontist, they and their orthodontist can work through that fear together. On the other hand, if your child doesn't like their orthodontist, the feeling of distrust or not feeling safe will only add to their fear.
There are several ways to go about looking for an orthodontist. First, call your insurance provider or primary doctor and ask for the details of any orthodontists in your area, specifically those who specialize in working with children. You can also look online or ask for recommendations from friends, family, or local community groups. Good reviews are a start, but be prepared to talk to multiple orthodontists and ask questions like how they deal with a child's dental anxiety and how their practice works to be a safe and comfortable environment for children.
Finally, once you've narrowed down your list, take your child with you to visit the orthodontists you have in mind. This will help you see how your child and potential orthodontist get along and how the orthodontist handles any fears your child may have, and it also helps them be more comfortable by visiting the office when no dental work is being done.
Explore Multiple Treatment Options
If your child is concerned about how braces will look or how painful they are to wear, there may be alternatives you can take advantage of. While standard dark metal brackets are common and cost-effective, there are several different types of braces that work in different ways.
Ceramic braces are similar to metal brackets but blend in better with your child's teeth, making them less noticeable. Lingual brackets also work in a similar way, but they're put on the back surface of teeth rather than the front surface, making them all but invisible. You may also be able to use removable aligners that can be taken out for things like eating, and being able to remove these aligners may help your child feel more in control and thus less afraid.
Different types of braces and appliances will have different requirements for use and care, and some may not be available depending on your child's specific needs, but these options are well worth looking into, as their variety can help your child use something that's most comfortable for them.
Look at Short and Long-term Solutions
In cases of more severe phobias and anxiety, it's a good idea to think about solutions in the short and long term that will offer more help than immediate comfort.
In the short term, your dentist may be able to use some kind of sedation to help your child stay calm while they are in the office. Sedation for pediatric dental procedures is common and safe and can help suppress everything from panic to strong gag reflexes. Talk with your orthodontist about what options may be available and suitable for orthodontic procedures.
Over a longer period of time, therapy may help alleviate some of your child's fears by examining the sources of their fears and working on positive coping mechanisms. If they are very anxious and that doesn't seem to improve no matter what else you try to do, professional help in this capacity can be invaluable. While therapy can help your child, it can also help you as well by offering tips on how to deal with stressful situations, how to set a positive example, and how to react to your child's specific needs.