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How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Is your child scared of going to the dentist? Help prepare them for their first dental appointment by correcting any misconceptions they have about going to the dentist. Reduce their fear by letting them know exactly what to expect on the first day.

Parents play a pivotal role when it comes to fear of the dentist. The first visit to the dentist in childhood is what sets up your child’s expectations for future meetings.

Treating a child with dental anxiety can be extremely challenging for the dentist. Not only does it pose difficult in providing dental care but is detrimental to the dental health of the child s it hinders the receipt of preventive dental care.

Talk to your child

Children tend to handle situations much better when they know what to expect. Talk about the visit to the dentist with your child beforehand and let them know what they can expect during the appointment.

During the procedure, the dentist should provide information about any sensations that the child would feel, sounds that she will hear and the taste of certain treatments, like fluoride.

Let your child know how important their teeth are, and remind them that going to the dentist is like going to a doctor who only works on teeth! Keep descriptions of other treatments vague and just stick to what your child needs to know for their first trip.

Your child doesn’t need to know that dentists can sometimes need to remove people’s teeth or drill into them. Do not mention pain, or associate the dentist with a word that might worry your child. Definitely, do not relate any bad experiences you have had at the dentist to your child. When a child is very young, explaining the full breadth of what a dentist can do for a patient will raise more questions than answers.

Be sure to chat with them and let them know that the dentist’s job is to keep them healthy. Humanize the dentist, if you work, tell your child that a dentist is just an ordinary person like you and that being a dentist is their job, just like how you have a job. This will help give your child a point of perspective, and help them to associate the dentist with you, someone they trust.

Relaxation Strategies

Anxious children can be difficult to calm down, especially in the midst of a tantrum or fit. Try to avoid this stage of outbursts by taking precautions to help relax your child before seeing the dentist. Let your child bring a special toy, or security blanket, to help settle them down in an unfamiliar environment.

Your dentist and the dental staff are trained to work with children, and they know how to calm your child down if he or she starts to get agitated. You can request to attend the appointment with your child so that you are there to hold their hand. Sometimes this simple act is all a child needs to settle down, and feel more secure.

Be sure your child arrives at the dentist relaxed, or even tired. Take them to a playground or play their favorite sport with them beforehand so that they are tired and do not have the energy to be nervous. When a child doesn’t have pent up energy, they are more likely to be relaxed and patient.

mother and child brushing teeth


Dental anxiety can be considerably minimized in anxious children by distracting them.

Many dental offices are equipped with TV’s that play child-friendly shows. LA Dental Clinic even has TV’s on the ceilings above the dental chairs, so your child can watch as their tooth check up is being completed.

If your child has an iPod or access to music, ask the dentist beforehand if they can listen to their songs through earbuds. Listening to their favorite music or podcast will help your child relax, and also distract them.

The child could also be provided with a toy to take their mind off the procedure. Another good technique is to ask them to talk about a memory such as a trip to the zoo, which may have a positive effect, and take their mind off the present.

Set The Record Straight

Forget your own dental demons. If you are personally afraid of the dentist, or if you have had bad past experiences when going to the dentist, your child will be able to recognize your own fear and hesitation. This is likely to make them concerned as well.

Forget about your past, negative experiences. Dental technology has made rapid advancements making procedures and medications faster, more efficient and fully pain-free. If you had a painful experience as a child, you should keep in mind that dental practices have improved significantly since then, and stop harboring the fear.

Likewise, if your child has older siblings or friends that have already been to the dentist, be wary of the potential stories they’ll be telling. Your child’s comrades may simply think it is funny to scare your child, however, these fears can lead to disastrous results when it’s time for your child to go to their appointment. Do your best to rectify anything that your child has been told about the dentist.

Whatever you do, try to avoid telling your child that “it doesn’t hurt.” This may sound counter-intuitive however, your child will fixate on the word “hurt” and that will be the word they associate with the dentist before their first appointment. Similarly, try not to say calming phrases like “don’t worry.” Chances are that your child will wonder why they shouldn’t worry, or what they should be afraid of.

Keep in mind that if your child has never been to the dentist, they don’t know why some people might fear the dentist. You do not want to encourage a young imagination to explore possible nightmarish reasons for why people fear the dentist.

Educate your child

There are countless children’s books and TV shows that portray a positive experience at the dentist for their audience. If it is getting close to your child’s appointment, bring them to the library and find children’s books that are about a first trip to the dentist.

Read them stories about what to expect. Remind them that if their favorite characters can do it, so can they! It will encourage your child, seeing a character that they can relate to, going to the dentist with confidence.

Reading to your child will help set up their expectations for their first dental appointment. They will be excited rather than nervous when they are well informed about what the dentist does and how they can help them.

Come On In!

Going to the dentist is an important part of growing up. Getting to the dentist young introduces a healthy lifestyle to your child early on. You can turn a dental appointment into an excellent learning experience for your child, as they take the first steps in a lifelong journey of personal health.

Your child will learn that they need to care for themselves as they get older, and the healthy habit of going to the dentist will be something they maintain. Bring your child in to meet our dentists today! Get them started on a happy and healthy future. 

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