Understanding, Preventing, and Dealing With Your Child's Dentist Fears

Understanding, Preventing, and Dealing With Your Child's Dentist Fears
Posted on 06/20/2019

Many children have some fear or trepidation when seeing a dentist. That fear can create a negative perception of dentistry that lasts for a lifetime. Here is what you need to know about a child's fear of the dentist and what you can do about it.

How Fear of the Dentist Develops in Children

Children develop a fear of dentists in much the same way as anyone develops a fear of anything. Often, the fear comes from nothing more than hearing dentistry is something to fear. If a child hears from others the dentist is scary, the fear becomes a preconceived notion they will carry with them.

Sometimes, the fear of the dentist may come about from a previous visit. Some of the tools of dentistry can look or sound scary to a child, and that fear will linger. In addition, fear can make the visit difficult for both the child and the dentist.

A dentist dealing with a scared child can have a difficult time with even the most innocuous procedures. That difficulty can turn into even more anxiety for the child as they go through the process. Misunderstandings of what will take place can also lead to children developing a fear of the dentist.

For example, if a dentist sits a child down and goes right into a procedure of any sort with no preamble, the child's anxiety levels can rise. The experience can stick with the child, making every visit from then on something they want to avoid.

How Prevention of Dental Fear Starts With You

A child's fear of the dentist isn't inevitable. Even in cases where your child already has a healthy fear of seeing a dentist, you can do many things to help them overcome that fear.

Start Dental Visits Early

An easy way to prevent fear before it develops is to bring your child to see a dentist as early as you can. Many parents may skip early visits, feeling they're unnecessary. However, most professional dental associations agree you should bring your child in to see a dentist around their first birthday or after their first tooth erupts.

Early visits help to identify any potential issues while also helping to acclimate your child to the environment of a dentist's office. Familiarity with something often helps to lessen the possibility of fear.

Speak With Your Child About Dentist Visits

If you have a child who can comprehend what's going on, then explain to them what happens during a dental visit. Talk about what dentists do and why the visit is important. Don't say anything about the possibility of pain or discomfort, and don't relate painful or negative experiences of your own.

Make Visits to the Dentist Normal

A trip to see the dentist for a checkup or procedure isn't a special occasion or something out of the ordinary. Normalize dental visits with your child. Make it routine by marking down future dates for checkups. You shouldn't have to bribe your child or make promises to goad your child into agreeing to a dental visit.

Nevertheless, another approach is to combine dentist visits with something fun or entertaining. For example, maybe visits to the dentist can coincide with a fun day out, enjoyable activity, or a day to pick out a small gift.

Don't confuse the fun activity with bribery. You don’t do the fun stuff because your child went to the dentist. Instead, the two things just happen to coincide with each other. In this way, your child can associate the trip to the dentist with good times.

Practice what you preach. By scheduling your own routine dental appointments, your child will see just how normal those appointments are. A shared experience is one that comes with less fear or anxiety.

How Choice of Dentist Matters Most in Preventing Fear

The dentist you choose for your child will play a strong role in how your child perceives dental visits. Not all dentists know how to deal with children, especially scared children. This has nothing to do with the skill or professionalism of the dentist. Rather, some dentists have specific training for dealing with children.

A pediatric dentist is always the best choice for seeing your child. Pediatric dentists know how to talk to children and assuage any fears the child may have. These dentists have techniques for putting children at ease while giving them the dental care they need.

Tears, tantrums, and an inability to sit still may stifle some dentists, but a pediatric dentist will know how to get through to a child. Pediatric dentists can also give you the right advice when keeping fear and anxiety at bay for your child.

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, Dentistry for Children & Adolescents has the staff and experience to help keep them free of worry during their visit. Contact us to set up an appointment for your child today.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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