Helping Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist

child-afraid-of-dentistLet’s face it: going to the dentist is not everyone’s favorite thing to do. Children especially tend to get extremely anxious when it comes to dental appointments. A big chair, a bright light, and someone with a mask poking around in their mouth with metal instruments is enough to make any child fearful and uncooperative during a routine check-up. It also makes for a pretty tough visit for the parent, the child and the dentist alike.

A dental visit doesn’t have to be an overwhelmingly frightening event though. There are many things that can be done to help calm your child’s nerves. A great way to help your child be brave when going to the dentist is by starting their visits at a young age. The younger they are, the more comfortable they will become with the routine of visiting the dentist twice a year. You can take your child to the dentist as early as their first tooth appears.

One of the best places to start preparing your child for the dentist is at home. Consider having a “practice” dental check-up by pretending to be the dentist and examining their teeth. This way, they have a better idea of what to expect. Another recommendation is to check out children’s books about the dentist at the library. Read to your child about the dentist within the weeks before their first appointment so that they have even more familiarity with the dentist office.

Parents who have a fear of the dentist themselves can often influence how their child feels about the dentist. Avoid using words that might frighten them even more, like “hurt,” “scrape,” or “poke.” Instead, use positive words and phrases like “strong teeth” or “healthy smile” when talking about going to the dentist. Tell them that the dentist is going to “look at their teeth and make sure they are healthy and clean.” Let your child form their own opinion about the dentist, but help reinforce why it’s good and important for them to go.

No matter how much you try to prepare your child, you should always be ready for a little bit of fuss. The dental team is likely very familiar with temper tantrums during a child’s appointment, so they may have some good ideas on how to help calm their nerves. Be patient with your child during the first few appointments, and continue to take them every 6 months. The more often they go, the more likely they are to be comfortable with the appointment. Besides, a healthy smile calls for routine visits to the dentist twice a year anyway!

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About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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