5 tips for helping kids overcome fear of the dentist

Kids aren’t exactly super excited to go to the dentist, and often parents are left feeling like there’s very little that can be done about that. Kids need to be visiting the dentist on a somewhat regular basis, though, as it’s a very important part of good oral hygiene. You don’t have to take them in more often than two or three times a year (at least), but even this can be a pretty serious event. And when special work needs to be done (which it sometimes does)? Apprehension on your kids’ part can be a serious thing to deal with when the dentist involved, and conquering it means an easier time for you, your medical professionals, and your kids. Little do they realize, but by staying calm, they can have the whole process be easier and hurt a lot less. There are plenty of things you can do to assuage your little ones’ fears about the dentist, and let them know that it’s not something about which they have to seriously early. We’ll talk about the five best strategies for creating a good relationship between your kids and your dentist.

1. Start at an Early Age. Get your kids into the dentist’s office early, so they become familiar with their dentist and with the process. This familiarity will go a long way towards eliminating some of the anxiety your kids feel when they head to get their twice-yearly checkup because they’ll know exactly what to expect. Avoiding the painful experience of going to the dentist with your kid and waiting until they’re a little older actually only serves to guarantee that you’re going to have that painful experience. Nip it in the bud, instead, by introducing your little ones to the dentist at an earlier age.

2. Avoid Trigger Words. Don’t say stuff like “shot” or “hurt” or “pain” or any single word that your kid might respond to with fear. Just don’t do it. If you can keep from using trigger words like these, you can do a lot to ease your kids’ pre-visit anxiety. Hearing these words really sticks in a kids’ brain, and they’re not the greatest at being rationalized with once they’ve been freaked out by hearing Mom or Dad say “shot.” One word can be all it takes, so make sure you don’t say the wrong thing in front of your kids.

3. Make It Fun. Oral hygiene can be a thing your kid really loves, and if you encourage a happy and positive relationship with taking care of your teeth from an early age, going to the dentist won’t seem like such a bad thing at all. Find ways to make your trips to the dentist fun, entertaining, or somehow special for your kids, and they won’t be nearly as apprehensive about going next time.

4. Try Not to Offer Rewards. While our kids might not be smart enough to realize that the dentist is totally necessary (and even good for you), and that pain is a very temporary thing, we still need to give them credit where credit’s due. I mention this because many of us think it’s a good idea to incentivize a trip to the dentist, offering up some kind of treat in return for good behavior. But our kids are hip to this — they realize that if we’re going out of our way to compensate them for whatever’s about to happen, it’s probably going to be pretty bad.

5. Pick a Better Dentist! If your kid hates the dentist, maybe you’d do well to get yourself a new one. Whether you’re looking for a dentist in Anchorage or an orthodontist in Boston, there are a ton of ways to find yourself a new practitioner and hopefully get someone that your kids connect with a lot better. The right person with their hands in your mouth goes a long towards how comfortable you feel while it’s happening, and the same is true of your children. Finding them a dentist that is fun and with whom they connect makes the whole experience a lot less upsetting.


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