Oral hygiene for kids can be difficult. You make sure their teeth get brushed, flossed, and fluoride-treated as much as possible, and yet they can still end up with an inevitable cavity. Unfortunately, some kids are more phased than others by common childrens dental procedures like a cavity filling.
Ever notice extreme stress from your child when getting a vaccination or other needle-related procedures at their pediatrician’s office? Not many people enjoy getting stuck with a needle, but a moderate amount of people do develop a psychological (and sometimes physical!) negative reaction to needles.
Like many medical-related phobias, the amount of people affected by needle phobia is largely unknown. People with these kinds of phobias can have a tendency to avoid situations where they would have to face the object of their phobia, so many of them go unseen by the medical community. It’s estimated that needle phobias are in the top ten most common phobias, affecting somewhere around 50 million Americans of all ages.
While kids have less of an excuse, as their parents mostly organize and bring them to appointments, many kids manage to avoid dental appointments. According to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, around 51 million school hours are lost on children every year because of dental related illnesses. Even if it’s difficult to get your child to face a phobia, the effects of skipping out on dental and pediatric appointments can be devastating.
Once you know the symptoms of needle phobia, it’s fairly easy to informally diagnose someone. Now how do you deal with it without over-stressing your child and making the phobia worse?
Seeing a psychotherapist for a couple sessions can help. A therapist can use cognitive behavioral methods to diagnose and treat your child with needle phobia. They may do exposure therapy, for example, which can start at pretending an object is a needle and work up to sitting next to a syringe without phobia symptoms.
Your child’s doctor can also prescribe a mild anti-anxiety medication for one-time use for an upcoming procedure. Sometimes a mild anti-anxiety can be enough to stave off a stress reaction.
Luckily, most childrens dental procedures won’t typically involve a needle. Still, if your child’s dentist warns that a procedure will require the use of local anesthesia via needle, you can ask about alternatives. Sometimes they’ll have local cream anesthetic (often used on babies and very young children) or an oral sedative that they can offer instead.
In short, childrens dental procedures should not be traumatizing for a child, or worsen any existing phobias. There are always options to ease your child into uncomfortable situations and eventually help them grow out of a phobia.