How To Help A Child Who Is Afraid Of Their Dentist

It has been estimated that almost 1 out of every 5 children is afraid of going to the dentist. In fact, many children have said that they feel anxious visiting doctors or dentists, or other medical providers. And while it is common for children to feel these fears or anxieties, it is important for parents, dentists, and even older siblings to help children overcome their fears and feel more comfortable when meeting with health providers. In this article, we will discuss the cause of dental fears, some ways that dentists & families can help, and some additional information on dental anxiety. If you would like to make a family dental appointment in Southern Maine, please contact our office.

Why Do Children Fear The Dentist In The First Place?

There are a few different thoughts on why a child might feel fear going to the dentist. It is important for dentists and parents to try and understand the root of the fear before trying to understand how to best help children manage their fears. Here are some of the common causes of anxiety: 

  • Fear Of Powerlessness: One of the common reasons that doctors or dentists might create some level of fear is because your child is being placed in a situation where they might feel like they have no control. Sitting in a dentist’s chair with a stranger’s hands near their mouth might cause this feeling. One way dentists can help is by allowing parents to stay with the child to help create a sense of familiarity. Additionally, allowing a child to touch or see the dental instruments can help a child regain a sense of control over the situation. Dentists can ask children for permission before certain tasks to help a child feel like they are not in a position of powerlessness. 
  • Fear Of Pain: Unfortunately both dental procedures and medical procedures cause discomfort. While every doctor and dentist works hard to be gentle, there is no way of getting around the fact that pain can happen. This is especially true for specific procedures like tooth extraction. this is why it is important that dentists use not only anesthetics but sedatives when necessary. It is important for parents to teach their kids that dentists and doctors do their best to avoid causing pain or discomfort and for dentists to explain what they are doing as they do it. 
  • Fear of the Unknown: Another common fear for children is the fear of the unknown in general. If the dentist is an unfamiliar place they can quickly become worried. Regular dental visits with a familiar dentist can help decrease this fear. Additionally, dentists can explain the steps of the procedures and the dental check-up so children are not surprised by anything that is happening. 

How to Help A Child That Is Afraid Of the Dentist

If your child is afraid of the dentist there are a few ways you can help. First, it is important for your child to have good role models. Knowing that their parents and older siblings go to the dentist can help make the experience less frightening. Additionally, how we talk about the dentist can play a large role in how it is perceived. Avoid making the dentist a scary place when talking about it to your children. Many children fear the dentist purely because it is often used as a tactic to get them to brush their teeth. Warning your child that if they don’t brush they will need a filling can lead to greater fear of the dental office as a whole.

Scheduling regular dental exams with a friendly dentist can go a long way in preventing dental fears. By making the dentist a familiar place and choosing a dentist that specializes in helping children of all ages your child can grow familiar with their dentist and become more confident in their oral health.

Family Dental Office in Lisbon

If you are live in Southern Maine, Two Rivers Family Dentistry is a great place for you and your kids to get regular dental exams, restorative dental services, and more. We provide a safe and comforting environment for patients of all ages to learn more about their dental health and maintain their health. 

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