September 2014 Newsletter

Four Ways to Lessen Your Child's Anxiety When Going to the Dentist

By Dr. M Dean Wright  |   Submitted On July 20, 2014

While taking your child to the dentist is necessary to keep teeth and gums healthy, it can be a somewhat intimidating experience for a youngster. Let's be honest, no one really looks forward to being poked and prodded with dental instruments, no matter how old they are. How you as a parent approaches an upcoming dental visit, however, can alter the way your child feels and behaves.

The earlier you begin regular visits to the dentist the better. It's important not only for your child's oral health but for his/her emotional health to feel comfortable at the dentist's office. The Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child begin regular visits at the age of one, or when the first tooth is visible because that's when decay can begin. Once the child reaches the toddler stage, around two and a half years old, you can begin professional cleaning and fluoride treatments. While it might be difficult to get a toddler to sit still for very long during a visit, the routine of going regularly will build a positive relationship between the child and the dentist.

For young children, find books which focus on going to the dentist and casually introduce them at storytime. You can also "play dentist" with your child using props to get them more comfortable with an upcoming visit. Kids are naturally inquisitive and have big imaginations so make sure you don't overload them with unnecessary details as this might add to their anxiety. Experts recommend you avoid words like "pain" or "hurt" when introducing dentistry.

Family and pediatric dentists understand not every child will be relaxed at their first visit and some may fuss a little. Some dentists will allow you to be in the examination room with your child, to help ease any trepidation. Remain flexible, however, as some children actually do worse when a parent is present. Don't get mad at your child or use punishment if he/she exhibits fear because this will only make future visits more stressful.

Serious anxiety is said to prevent millions of adults from regular dental visits. Children easily pick up on their parents' anxieties so be sure you stay calm and keep the visit positive. Talk to your dentist if you need help creating a relaxed environment.

  1. Begin dental visits early
  2. Talk casually about dental visits
  3. Don't feel stressed if your child fusses during the visit  
  4. Keep yourself calm

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