Regular dental check-ups are crucial to prevent cavities and other dental problems in kids.
However, if your children struggle with dental anxiety, getting them to the dentist might seem like an impossible task.
If this sounds familiar, we can help! Learn ways to help to ease their dental fears and ensure good oral and overall health.
Tips to ease dental anxiety with your kids
Fear of the dentist is common in children. Helping them overcome their fears is an important part of ensuring good oral health for their entire lives.
Try these tips to help them feel more comfortable at their next dental appointment:
- Start taking your kids to the dentist early. The American Dental Association recommends children visit the dentist within six months of their first tooth or by age one. Early visits give kids a chance to get familiar with the dentist and can reduce dental anxiety down the road.
- Lead by example. If you’re nervous about the dentist, your kids might pick up on it and adopt the same attitude. According to a study in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, adults can transfer their dental anxiety or fears to family members. Make an effort to show a positive attitude toward the dentist and explain the value of regular visits.
- Read books that explain the dentist experience. Reshape attitudes with the power of the page. Pick up library books that explain dental appointments in kid-friendly language. Popular options include Curious George Visits the Dentist by A. Rey, Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer and Open Wide: School Tooth Inside by Laurie Keller.
- Make your child comfortable with their dentist and staff. Stop by the dental office beforehand so your kids learn what to expect in a lower-pressure situation. Introducing them to the team without the stakes of an actual appointment can help them feel more comfortable in the environment.
- Practice beforehand. Try running through a mock dental visit in your own home to demonstrate what happens in the dentist’s chair. Pretend to clean your child’s teeth while explaining how visiting the dentist helps keep their smiles healthy.
- Use relaxation techniques. If you’ve tried everything and your kids still get the heebie-jeebies in the dental chair, don’t fear! Try calming them down with some simple relaxation exercises, including Instructing your child to inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
- Keep up with dental services: Once you bring your child in for their first dental check-up, it’s important to have them seen regularly. A study from the research journal Children looked at the most effective ways to reduce dental anxiety in children and found “The frequency of dental experiences seems to act as a positive factor in reducing children’s anxiety. Specifically, our study shows a significant difference when check-ups are performed every 6 months or every year.”
Dental anxiety in children can be helped
A positive, comfortable relationship with your dentist or your child’s dentist is important to ease dental anxiety. Anxiety at any age can be reduced when you’re comfortable with those who are taking care of your teeth.
For more tips on beating dental anxiety, check out “Reasons people fear the dentist and the truth behind them”.
*Updated February 2024