Dentist Anxiety: How to Ease Your Child’s Fears

By JustMommies staff

Nearly 75 percent of adults are afraid of the dentist, so it should come as no surprise if your child is terrified too. True "dental phobia" is so paralyzing that 5-10 percent of people never go to the dentist. This is an issue because a number of health issues can stem from poor dental health, including infections, tooth decay and persistent pain.

You want your kids to be healthy, but if they experience anxiety or fear about going to the dentist, what can you do? Not going to the dentist can't be an option, so with that in mind parents will have to help kids overcome their fears. Here are some ideas:

  • Find the right dentist - This may not seem important, but the right dentist is key to helping your kids through their fear. Not every dentist is fun or creative, or even nice-and kids can pick up on that. Do some research, ask other parents and take a drive to see the office. If the dentist is kid-friendly, you'll know as soon as you meet her. She'll help ease fears, make the experience fun and spend time getting to know your child on a more friendly level. It'll make a big difference.

  • Get 'em while they're little - The younger a child is at their first dental visit, the better. They'll be more used to the process and will have time to get to know their dentist. For very young toddlers with just one or two teeth, the dentist will just look at how things are progressing and maybe do a light brushing with a yummy flavored toothpaste. Kids will usually take home a prize. Establishing a routine of going to the dentist will become second nature and most kids won't question it even as they get older.

  • Stay positive - Don't bring kids into any conversations about what bad things "could" happen. If they ask if it will hurt, don't go into detail about any painful procedures. Keep things light. If something more serious needs to be done, don't lie or you risk losing their trust. It's best to defer to the dentist and have your child ask them. They're equipped to deal with those issues and can help reassure your kids about what is going to happen.

  • Go first - Many kids are terrified of the sound of a dental drill or of being in pain. However, before you even get to that point, your kids will need to have a cleaning done. Cleanings are painless, but your child may be unconvinced. In that case, have the doctor perform a cleaning on you. As he does, ask him to explain everything, step by step, to your child while showing off the instruments and how they work. When your child sees that you're not in pain, it'll go a long way to easing fears.

Good oral hygiene at home is the best way to avoid a painful dental visit. Teaching your kids to brush frequently and keeping them away from sugary foods and drinks will go a long way in avoiding painful visits. At first, most dentists will plan to count teeth and check smiles. Keep it simple when you explain what's going to happen. If there's anxiety in the moment, stay calm and reassure your child that you're there and they're not alone.