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What to Do If Your Child Has Anxiety About Wearing Braces

What to Do If Your Child Has Anxiety About Wearing Braces

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Dr. John and his staff are amazing, kind and funny. My kids love their contests, Dr. John’s silly jokes, and I like how he explains things and listens to me and most importantly listens to the kid. He is also great with kids who have sensory and dental anxiety – my kid loves to go to ortho.

– Eryca D. 

Children’s feelings about braces run a wide range of emotions. Fortunately, most children have some familiarity with orthodontic treatment due to family members or friends, and most view the process with excitement and anticipation.

In fact, some children are so excited about getting braces that they’ve been known to bend a paperclip and hold it up to their teeth to simulate braces and see how they’d look. While most children are neutral or excited, others experience very real anxiety when it comes to braces or any form of orthodontic treatment.

Anxiety regarding orthodontic treatment generally falls into two main categories.

The first, and most common, category are patients who worry about any new experience or anything different than the status quo. They are not fond of change and the thought of something new in their mouth makes them very hesitant.

For these children, it is important to talk and find out exactly what aspects of orthodontic treatment they are most concerned about. Sometimes, there are misconceptions about a specific part of treatment. These children may have been told by a friend that the orthodontic process is painful, and so they worry about signing up for a program that would cause them discomfort.

The second type of anxiety that can be experienced by children involves a small percentage of kids who have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. A conversation with the orthodontist at the new patient exam, specifically about the anxiety diagnosis and any medications that the child is taking, is a good place to start.

What does Dr. John recommend parents do for an anxious child?

The first and most important step is to engage your child and listen to what your child is worried about. It is especially important not to try to minimize those fears. The best thing you can say is, “This is good information. I know that Dr. John is going to want to hear it so that he can help you to feel comfortable.” What you’ll find when you visit our office is that Dr. John is very approachable. He likes to make kids, parents, and our team members laugh and smile. His approach to the initial exam and orthodontic treatment, in general, is to put your child at ease.

It’s important to remember that orthodontics is not a one or two-visit experience. Think of it more as a longer-term relationship. Therefore, it’s important to choose an orthodontist with whom your child feels comfortable. Different orthodontists have varying abilities to connect with patients and make them feel relaxed. Dr. John suggests that an orthodontist with greater experience and more time in practice will have dealt with many more anxious patients than a younger orthodontist with less experience.

For patients who are especially concerned about getting braces, parents can schedule a time to visit with the orthodontist without the child present, just to get a feel for the orthodontist and the practice.

Another important factor is to make sure the child and parent express to the orthodontist what the patient is most anxious about. This will ensure that the child feels heard, and you can gauge the orthodontist’s response to your child’s concerns.

In Dr. John’s experience, most children recognize the benefits of orthodontic treatment and can overcome anxieties and immediately start treatment after visiting the orthodontist.

A small number of patients benefit from repeated appointments to “observe.” This can help familiarize the patient with the office so that he or she feels more comfortable in that setting. Observation visits also allow the patient to grow and mature a bit, because what may seem overwhelming to an 11 or 12- year-old may not seem so overwhelming at 13 or 14.

The bottom line is, timing needs to be right for the patient. The patient must determine when he or she is ready to undergo orthodontic treatment. Dr. John has found that when he and our team have a genuine concern for the patient’s wellbeing, almost all patients (and parents) become comfortable in our office.

To schedule a time for you or you and your child to visit our office, call us today at (503) 585-5400.