How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of the Dentist?

How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Learn how to help kids overcome fear of the dentist. Read the blog carefully to know everything in details.

Many school-aged children freak out at the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair. That may be because their previous experience at the dentist was bad or they have learned about dental anxiety from their elders. However, if they do not cope with this now, their anxiety may linger on even in their adulthood.

This blog talks about dental anxiety, why some children have it, and how to help child overcome fear of the dentist and how it can be dealt with to ensure a successful, comfortable, relaxing dental visit.

Also Read: Dental Hygiene for Kids

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a term referring to the physical and emotional response of the human body surrounding the dental visit when the brain perceives the dental visit to be dangerous, even if in reality it’s not. It can show up in a variety of forms. It can be specific to particular procedures or tools such as the use of drills or needles or just the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair. If dental anxiety in pediatric patients is overlooked, they can end up avoiding dental cleanings and check-ups as adults and start experiencing oral health issues that could require extensive dental work later on. Thus, such avoidance can lead to more fear of visiting the dentist such as for tooth extraction. Therefore, parents must ensure that their children go to the dentist by helping them develop coping mechanisms and get rid of dental anxiety altogether.    

Why are Some Kids Afraid of Seeing a Dentist?

Sometimes, there are no particular reasons for a child’s fears. But most children fear the dentist because of the following reasons:

  • Obstructed breathing- For professional dental cleaning or oral examination, the patients have to keep their mouths wide open. This can make the child feel difficulty in breathing if the child breathes through the mouth and create a bad memory of this feeling that may haunt the child in subsequent dental visits.  
  • Powerlessness– When a child lays down on a dental chair with the dentist’s hand inside the mouth, the child may feel that his/her control is lost. If anything hurts or feels uncomfortable, the child may not be able to effectively communicate because of an obstructed mouth. This may make the child feel scared of not being able to engage in instinct to get off from a painful or fearsome dental situation.
  • Pain– Some dental work may hurt or just feel unpleasant, even if the dentist has worked hard to be gentle with the patient. If a child has undergone a dental procedure wherein the dentist was not gentle or the mouth was not properly numbed prior to the procedure, such a painful experience may cause dental anxiety even if the child is going for regular dental check-ups.
  • Unexplained fear- Some pediatric patients may have fear of visiting a dentist but are not able to pinpoint the cause of their fear. There could be many possible reasons for their fear such as hearing another kid or adult describe their painful dental experience, having sensory issues that make it difficult for them to handle the environment of the dental office like the smell or just view of the dental setting, costly dental appointments, not proper preparation for a first dental visit, or just not knowing what to expect at the dental visit when the child has not undergone regular dental check-ups or have taken long gaps in between the visits.    
How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Tips to Manage Dental Anxiety in Children

Schedule regular dental Appointments for Check-Ups

To overcome fear from within, the person needs to step into a difficult or scary situation again and again. For the children to be familiar with the dentist and his/her staff and develop security and safety when visiting the dentist, it’s important to maintain regularity in their dental check-ups after every 6 months.  

Choose the Right Dental Professional

Parents should look out for the right dentist who works well with pediatric patients, especially children who fear the dentist. Not specifically the dentist, the environment of the dental clinic where child visits should be relaxing, not noisy, and have bright colored walls or filled with soft, relaxing colors.

Give Children Fair Warning of what Their Dental Procedure Would be Like

If children are feeling anxious about their upcoming dental visit, parents must not hide from the child about their appointment until the last minute. It’s better to prior inform pediatric patients of their upcoming dental appointment so that they could have enough time to process their dental anxiety. At the regular dental visit, the children must be encouraged to ask questions to the dentist regarding their dental procedures and if the kids are going for a dental check-up, they must be reminded of what will happen during their visit.

Take Careful Steps

Being honest and open with pediatric patients regarding what to experience at the dental appointment is important, however, it’s crucial to not give many details. For instance, if pediatric patients have to get their cavities filled, they must not be told of their tooth drilling or any imagery things that could make them fear pain or discomfort.

Set a Good Example of the Dental Visit

Parents must be regular visitors to the dentist’s office and emphasize more on good oral hygiene so that they can ease dental anxiety among their kids. It’s better to allow the child to watch their parent at their dental visit, but not if the parent is anxious too or has to undergo some extensive dental work like tooth filling or extraction.

Focus on Good Oral Hygiene at Home

Many kids associate their dentist with pain and discomfort after undergoing any dental procedure at a young age. Parents can help reduce the chances of their kids undergoing dental work when young by emphasizing good oral habits that will help protect the teeth and gums of the child. Twice a day brushing using proper toothbrush and techniques, flossing once, using mouthwash, going for regular dental check-ups, and being committed to healthy eating- all are great ways to help children prevent the need for dental intervention and the associated fear of it.

Focus on Good Oral Hygiene at Home

Schedule an appointment with the best dentist near me to know more about your child’s dental health and ways to overcome their anxiety.