Easing the Mind of the Nervous Patient

Is your child nervous about their first visit to the orthodontist? In this week’s article, we provide some tips and tricks to help reduce anxiety during orthodontic appointments.

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For some patients new to orthodontic treatment, their first visits can be the source of anxiety and nervousness. This can be as a result of a negative past doctor’s visit, exaggerated stories told to them by their peers or simply from lack of personal experience which leads to fear of the unknown. Regardless of where it stems from, the anxiety a patient might experience can make a patient dread their orthodontic appointments. Luckily, there are steps that you as a parent can take to relieve your child’s anxiety about their orthodontic visits.

  1. Research: Educate yourself on what it is like to have braces. Pass this information on to your child, making them aware of what they can expect at their visits. Eliminating the mystery and being honest with your child often works wonders for settling nerves. Along a similar line, emphasize the positives that come with each visit to the office. For example, you might mention the fact that they will get to pick new colors, the fact that their teeth are going to be so beautiful once they are done or the fact that they can get a cookie in the office at the end of their visit.
  2. Listen: If you know your child is nervous about their visit, allow them to verbalize their concerns to you beforehand. Having an open discourse and discussion about what worries them will be a huge relief for your child, and from there you can understand the source of their anxiety.
  3. Calming Activity: Instructing your child to do a breathing exercise or meditative activity anytime they feel anxious can help them to alleviate some of the anxiety they experience. For example, taking a deep breath and releasing it for 5-10 seconds while closing their eyes or closing their eyes and picturing themselves somewhere else they enjoy can be quite effective. Young patients might also take comfort in having a stuffed animal or doll with them on their visits.
  4. Analyze Your Behavior: As a parent, are you nervous about the visits? While this might be unintentional, if you are visibly or verbally nervous or worried about your child’s visits, your child might also see a reason to be anxious or nervous as well. If you realize you are nervous about your child’s visits or orthodontics in general, follow the steps above for yourself, or even perform them with your child so you can overcome this shared anxiety together.
  5. Alert the Staff: Your orthodontist and his/her team want to know if your child is nervous about their appointment. By telling them about your child’s anxiety, they can take extra steps to make your child comfortable at their current and future visits.
  6. Encourage: Encouraging your child to be independent at the orthodontist’s office can also work wonders in lessening their anxiety. Have your child go on their own to the brushing station and back to the seating area. Assure them you will be waiting up front, right around the corner if they need you, but you know they can do it. Once they see that nothing bad will happen at their visits, they will no longer see the need for being nervous.

A little anxiety is normal for patients who are starting treatment, so do not worry if your child seems a bit apprehensive as it is an experience that is new to them. By following the suggestions above, you will eventually see a child who looks forward to their orthodontic appointments rather than one who is nervous about them.

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