Some children enjoy coming to the dentist and actually look forward to it. Others, not so much. Since opening in 1996, we’ve seen many cases of pediatric dental anxiety ranging from mild to extreme. In fact, for some kids all it takes is the word “dentist” to throw them into a panic and potential frenzy.
Your children’s oral health is very important, but forcing a stressed, scared child into a dentist chair can be quite a daunting task. As a parent, it’s important for you to know that dental anxiety is common in children and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, most pediatric and family dental clinics have experience working with children that have dental anxiety.
Some cases of pediatric dental anxiety can be much stronger than others. In extreme cases, dental anxiety can impact your child’s dental health for the rest of their life which is why we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to help you keep your child from developing dental anxiety, and to assist you with reducing their anxiety.
Simple Tips for Managing Pediatric Dental Anxiety
1. Read Dental Storybooks to Your Kids
Dental books for kids are an excellent way to help reduce the fear of visiting the dentist. Through colorful illustrations, easy to understand language, and a happy dental experience for the main character, your child can develop a better understanding of what to expect at the dentist. Below are a few recommendations:
– The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist
– Noah’s Visit to the Dentist
– Ben Goes to the Dentist
2. Start Dental Visits While They’re Young
Most dentists advise parents to bring their kids in for a first visit as soon as their first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday. Taking your child in for an early dental checkup is not only good for their oral health, but also helps them become familiar with the dentist office at an early age. Starting routine visits early in life is a perfect way to help them feel comfortable and build trust with their dentist.
3. Play “Dentist” at Home
Before taking your child to their dental appointments, it can be beneficial to practice being a dental patient leading up to the visit. Let your child role-play by pretending to be the dentist and examine and clean your teeth. Then, let them pretend to be the patient and you can pretend to be the dentist, showing them how to clean and count their teeth. They can also practice with their dolls or stuffed animals. With a chair, a mirror, and toothbrush, it’s easy to set up a pretend dental visit in your own home.
4. Communicate, But Keep it Simple
Telling your child about a dental appointment at the last minute can increase stress and anxiety. If your child is showing signs of fear and anxiety about the dentist, be sure to give them ample time to mentally prepare themselves for the visit. It can be a good idea to tell your child about the upcoming dental appointment in advance, and then continually remind them as the date approaches.
Be sure to ask your child if he/she has any questions prior to the appointment and try to answer them honestly. Avoid using vague statements like “everything will be fine”. While this may be true, if your child does end up needing dental treatment, that statement could be the source of reduced trust in both you and the dentist.
Do use phrases like “the dentist just wants to check your smile and count your teeth”, and stick to words like “clean”, “healthy”, and “strong” to make them excited about seeing the dentist.
5. Go to a Family Dentist
When taking care of the dental health for your kids, seeing a family dentist is usually your best option. The advantage of working with family-focused dental clinics is that they’re prepared and experienced dealing with children and ensuring children have a great dental experience.
Family dental clinics know that small details matter. Whether it’s a children’s play area to relax while they’re waiting to be seen by the dentist, a Buzz Lightyear or other fun characters on the ceiling and walls to look at while getting their teeth checked, providing nitrous oxide for procedures, or the way the dentist interacts with you and the child, the small details do matter.
6. Teach Kid’s the Importance of Great Oral Health and Lead By Example.
Teaching your kids the importance of great oral hygiene is a worthy investment in their overall health. Set expectations of what keeping healthy, strong teeth looks like; brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis. Remind them that dentists are friendly doctors for their teeth, and that they’re here to help keep their smile strong and beautiful.
Most importantly, you have to lead by example. Children can develop their fear and pediatric dental anxiety from their parents. If you’re anxious about their dental visit, then they’re also going to be anxious about their dental visit. However, if they see you taking care of your teeth everyday and getting excited to go see the dentist every six months, they’ll probably do the same.
Join Us In the Comments!
Have questions, comments, or additional tips about pediatric dental anxiety? Share them in the comments below.Leave a comment
I liked how you suggested letting the kid know about their scheduled dental appointment prior to going to the dentist because that will give them enough time to prepare. That’s something that I think will benefit us because this will be the first time that my younger sister will ever visit the dentist. She became highly anxious about seeing the dentist because her older cousins told her some mean stories. I really do need to talk to those kids. Thank you for sharing. I’ll mention it to her before I begin looking for a pediatric dentist. Thank you.
I never knew that reading dental books are awesome way to encourage kids to go to the dentist. I really love these tips. Thanks
I definitely don’t want my kids to be afraid of the dentist. Now that we have our first daughter, I want to show her that she should look forward to the dentist. I love your idea of reading stories about the dentist.
My daughters been needing to go to the dentist for a check-up for the past few weeks, and I’m afraid she’ll freak out when I tell her. I’ll have to find a good doctor to help her out, and schedule a few weeks in advance so she doesn’t get too much anxiety. I’m sure she’ll do pretty good though, she’s a tough girl.
She’ll do great. Good luck!
Thank you for sharing these tips. It’s up to the parents to teach their child about how the dentist works hard to take care of bad teeth. Of course, if the kids didn’t eat so many sweets, and made sure to brush their teeth every day, I’m sure there will be less need to be afraid to go to the dentist!
I really love your advice to “play dentist” at home. You want your kids to feel comfortable with the idea of going to the dentist. Otherwise, they likely won’t feel excited to go the dentist when it’s for real. Do you have any other tips about kids and dental health?
Most of the children are afraid of dentist so It is better to go to family-focused dental clinics for they’re prepared and experienced dealing with children and ensuring children have a great dental experience. Glad to read this article.
Amazing tips! It is really difficult to manage dental anxiety especially to kids. I think constantly talking to them can help to divert their attention.
We agree, Mike! With kids we try to make their dental experience as enjoyable as possible so their anxiety starts to subside as they get older and more comfortable.
Hey Thanks for Sharing! Great Blog! One can also try making the child comfortable by explaining him the real stories on dental and telling how it helped him without much pain. Nowaday the dental clinics for Kid’s are designed in very cool way which gives feeling of play room than a clinic.
Excellent article. I agree that it is important for the family dentist to talk to the kids and make them feel comfortable. Thank you. Great tips.
This are very useful tips indeed. We all know kids are very likely to get scared to the dentist or even doctors. It is our job to explain to them the importance of having a good oral health and maintaining a healthy smile throughout their lives. Thank you for this wonderful post!
I think it’s important not to make the dentist sound scary to your children. I love the story books. Great tips, thanks for sharing!
My kids aren’t the biggest fans of going to the dentist, but I’m hoping to find a dentist that really makes them feel comfortable. I like your tip about playing dentist at home so they can get an idea of what the visit will be like. I also think that by finding a dentist that caters to children will make their overall experience much more enjoyable.
Thanks for the tips!