How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Going to the dentist can be scary for kids. Between the strange setting, unusual tools, and potential for discomfort, it’s no wonder many children dread dental visits.

A recent American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry survey found that up to 15% of children have severe anxiety about visiting the dentist.

As a parent, you play an essential role in helping your child develop a positive association with the dentist right from the start. Follow these tips to make dentist visits less intimidating for your little one.

Set the Right Expectations

Before the first appointment, explain to your child what will happen at the dentist simply and clearly.

Describe how the exam room will look, the dental tools the dentist will use, and the basic steps like counting teeth and taking x-rays.

Give a realistic yet positive overview without detailed talk of needles or drilling to avoid unneeded fear. Frame the visit as a way to keep teeth strong rather than a treatment for disease.

Read Children’s Books About the Dentist

Reading books helps demystify the dentist experience.

Many good books portray dentist visits in a fun, familiar way for kids. Reading these together can demystify what happens at the dentist and equip your child with knowledge.

According to research, viewing picture books about going to the dentist can reduce children’s anxiety.

Some top options include Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer, The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan Berenstain, and Show Me Your Smile! by Christine Ricci.

Practice With Pretend Play

Acting out dentist visits with your child using their stuffed animals or dolls builds comfort through repetition.

You can take on the dentist’s role and use a toothbrush or wet washcloth as a pretend “tool” to look in your stuffed animal’s mouth. This makes them actively participate in the play scenario rather than just a passive observer.

Talk About Healthy Teeth

Discuss how going to the dentist helps keep teeth strong and healthy. Your child will be more eager to go when they understand it’s for their good.

Explain how the dentist’s job is to “keep your teeth happy and healthy your whole life!” Frame it as a positive experience. Emphasize that dentist visits prevent cavities and toothaches.

Bring Your Child For Your Dental Visits

When your child observes you calmly and cooperatively, getting your teeth examined, it models the behavior you want to see from them.

This visual learning is a highly effective preparation for their first visit. Studies show children are significantly less anxious when they’ve sat in on a parent’s appointment.

Consider Pediatric Dentists

Their offices are tailored to make kids comfortable, with toys, games, and child-friendly decor. Pediatric dentists like Perfect 32 Family Dentistry also have specialized skills and training to provide dental care for little ones.

Pediatric dentist offices are designed to be kid-friendly.

This kid-focused environment helps put children at ease. The AAPD recommends taking children to a pediatric dentist by age 1.

Your child’s first dentist visit can be painless and fun with the proper preparation and reassurance.

Please don’t underestimate the power of your calm presence and positive attitude in shaping their experience.

Modeling good dental health habits yourself is also crucial. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to raise kids who take good care of their teeth for years to come!

Check out this article: Common Dental Procedures and When to See a Specialist.

FAQs About Kids and the Dentist

What age should my child first see a dentist?

Dental experts, including the American Dental Association, recommend bringing your child to the dentist by 12 months old or when they get their first tooth.

Early preventive visits get kids comfortable with dental care and allow the dentist to check for tooth decay or other issues.

How can I calm my anxious child at a dentist visit?

Stay positive, provide reassurance, and avoid adding to their fear. Distract them with books, toys or games in the waiting room.

Ask the dentist to explain each step in kid-friendly language before doing it. Use deep breathing exercises together. Praise cooperation and bravery.

How do I make my child brush and floss properly at home?

Make it fun by singing songs or turning it into a game. Buy kid-friendly toothbrushes and flavoured flossers. Model good habits yourself.

Offer rewards for consistency. Schedule it into your routine, like before bedtime. Supervise their technique and compliment progress.

Making the dentist a non-scary experience from the start prevents future dental anxiety.

With patience and preparation, you can ensure your child develops good oral health habits that benefit them life-long.

Leave a Comment