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It’s an unfortunate fact that many people have an intrinsic fear of going to the dentist. This can occur in people of any age, but it is especially prevalent among children. If you are the parent of a child who is frightened by the prospect of visiting the dentist, you know how stressful and upsetting it can be. Parents of such children don’t often know what to do to alleviate these fears. In this blog post, we’ll discuss tips parents (and dental professionals) can use to help children overcome their fear of dental treatment.

Tips for Parents

If you have children, it has probably happened to you or someone you know: your child is terrified of going to the dentist. What can you do to help them get over these irrational fears? Dental health experts around the world have been studying this phenomenon for many years, and have developed a set of tips that parents can use. These include:

Staying calm and relaxed – children often mimic the behaviors they see their parents or caregivers doing. Getting tense before taking a child to the dentist has a negative effect on the child; he or she will also tend to become tense and fearful. The tip here is to remain calm and to stay relaxed. Try listening to calming music before or during the trip to the dentist with the goal of putting your young child’s mind at ease while keeping yourself relaxed. By staying calm, you’re sending signals to your child that there’s nothing to be worried about.
Reading books about visiting the dentist – there are many children’s books that focus on family trips to the dentist. Some of the favorites are Behold, No Cavities!: A Visit to the Dentist by Sarah Willson, Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer, and What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Heidi Murkoff. Reading books together can help children understand what to expect and reasons to actually look forward to visiting the family dentist!
Being honest and straightforward – as parents, it is our responsibility to tell our children the truth, even if that truth is about something potentially fear-inducing. Children are pretty smart and tend to recognize when their parents are not telling the truth. Be honest with your kids about visits to the dentist, and they’ll appreciate your truthfulness.
Helping them to understand the importance of dental hygiene – one of the best ways to help children to overcome their fear of visiting the dentist is to help them understand WHY we must take care of our teeth. Talking about mouth germs and the damage they can cause is one aspect, but try to make this process fun; tell them, for example, that “your teeth are going to get washed on this visit”. Investing them in the process helps alleviate fears.

A Tip for Dental Professionals

Some of the best pediatric dentists and their technicians have learned that giving their young patients information is a great way to help them be less fearful when it comes time for dental care. Children are naturally curious, so gently explaining the procedures and what to expect (the sounds, the instruments, the process) not only helps them learn, it can also help distract them. Before the children know it, their dental visit will be completed and their teeth healthy and clean.