girl at the dentist getting her teeth checked

It’s easy to see why the dentist office can cause your little one to have a bit of hesitation and anxiety. After all, if your child has already experienced an emotional dental treatment such as having a cavity filled, or a tooth pulled, they are more than likely reminded of that negative, and possibly painful experience every time they sit in the dentist’s chair.

Help your kids to overcome their fears of the dentist at a young age with these helpful tips.

Why Kids Frequently Have Dental Anxiety

While it’s true that one of the underlying causes of anxiety is the result of direct negative dental experiences, the nature of dental anxiety is more complicated than what is commonly presumed.

Factors that contribute to a child having dental anxiety include:

The Environment

Evidence suggests how a person perceives the dental environment is a considerably more important determination of dental fear than having had a previous distressing experience at the dentist office. Finding a pediatric dentist office that specializes in children is a great way to make the dentist a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Negative Past Dental Experiences

If your child has a fear of pain or has had a painful past experience at the dentist, this can cause your child to be nervous or anxious for what to expect at future dental appointments. Even the sight or feel of dental instruments may set them off.

Transfer of Fears

A child may acquire fears through modeling by parents or siblings. Children who have a guardian with moderate to high dental fear are twice as likely to be afraid of the dentist than children who have a guardian with low dental fear. Be careful not to transfer your fear of the dentist from past experiences onto your children.

Generalized Dental Anxiety

Children who experience significant anxiety in anticipation of dental treatments are not typically able to identify one aspect of the treatment that makes them nervous, and instead, makes a generalization that “it’s all terrible”.

Feeling Unprepared

Before you take your child to the dentist, sit down and explain to them what the process will be like, and assure them that you will be there with them every step of the way watching over them. Allowing for your child to have adequate preparation for their dental checkup will help to relieve stress they may be feeling over the unknown.

Transforming Your Child’s Dental Fear into Comfort

We’ve rounded up the best tips and tricks for how to ensure your child feels comfortable and relaxed at the dentist.

Introduce the dentist early. It’s best that your child’s first dental visit is at age 1, or when the first tooth is visible so the dentist office is a familiar place.

Speak positively of the dentist. When preparing your child for a visit, keep your explanation short and positive and explain treatments as they are necessary.

Consider your vocabulary. Leave out the scary words like shot, hurt and pain, and instead introduce tell your child that the dentist is looking for “sugar bugs” so he can clean them off their teeth. Try telling your child the dentist is going to check their smile and count their teeth  to make the visit seem more fun and less scary and alarming.

Play pretend. Before the dentist appointment, play pretend with your child to be the dentist and the patient. Count your little one’s teeth and avoid making any drilling noises. Use props like a toothbrush and a mirror so your child is able to get familiar with the routine so they will be more comfortable when the real visit comes around.

Avoid bribery. Promising your child a special treat if they behave well at the dentist is only going to increase their apprehension and send the wrong message after a dentist emphasizes on having clean, healthy teeth by avoiding sugars.

What You Can Do at Home to Prevent Kids’ Cavities

Teach your kids about the importance of good oral hygiene, and how taking care of their teeth begins right at home. Having good oral hygiene leads to positive checkups and fewer treatments. Putting the extra work to keep your kids teeth in a healthy state will help them avoid cavities and negative experiences at the dentist.

We’re here to help you in making the dentist a fun, positive experience for your kids. If your child is a little extra nervous about their upcoming dentist appointment, let us know beforehand so we can make sure to give them a little extra attention and comfort during their visit. Kids need twice a year cleanings just like adults do, so schedule their next exam with Dr. Baudean today!