Although fear of the orthodontist isn’t as well known as fear of the dentist, it does exist, especially in our younger patients. If you’re a parent of a child who’s dreading an upcoming orthodontist appointment, here are some things you can do to help them overcome their fear of the orthodontist. (And for you adults out there who are a little skittish yourself, these tips can help you, too!)
Ask to Take Things Slow
Action-packed appointments or fast-moving treatment can be overwhelming to children, so ask their orthodontist if they can slow it down. This will give your child time to warm up to the experience, the office, and the orthodontist themselves.
In our office, we take care to read whether our young patients are hesitant about moving forward. If they are, we take it slow and have them come for a few visits before beginning treatment. Instead of doing everything in one appointment, they’ll come separately to have measurements taken, get a scan, and so on. We may do the same when it comes to treatment, too, putting in an expander, bottom braces, and top braces in separate visits. This gives them time to get used to all the changes and eases their fears.
Go On a Tour of the Tools
The tools that dentists and orthodontists use may look very scary to kids. Taking some time to learn about what each tool does makes them less scary, so ask your child’s orthodontist for a tour of his or her tools.
When I see children in our practice who look tense and uncertain, I offer to show them my tools and explain what they are. I demonstrate how they are used and what they can expect during their own treatment. I find it very helpful to give the child a mirror so they can watch what we are doing as we work in their mouths. Kids usually get very curious and interested in what we are doing and as they get engaged and notice it doesn’t hurt, their fear goes away.
Get a Play by Play
Similar to the tip above, this one is about knowing what’s happening every step of the way. By getting an explanation about what’s happening in his or her mouth at all times, your child can feel more confident and in control of the situation.
You may also want to ask the orthodontist what your child can expect in terms of pain. Children may have ideas that orthodontic treatment is really painful. It can help to be reassured by the orthodontist that there won’t be any shots and that treatment should never hurt beyond a level of tolerable discomfort.
Empower Your Child to Speak Up
Last but not least, give your child the permission and the confidence to speak up at the orthodontist if her or she ever feels uncertain or fearful about what’s going on. Your child should feel free to ask questions so he or she knows what’s going on and what to expect next.
Follow these tips and over time, you’ll see your child warm up to the orthodontist. It’s even happened with us that some of our young patients with the most fear of the orthodontist ended up enjoying their visits the most! We hope for the same experience for your child.