6 Tips to Combat Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist

Up to eight percent of Americans do not visit the dentist out of fear, whereas 20 percent of Americans avoid going to the dentist unless they have no other choice, according to Peter Milgrom, DDS and Director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle. To prevent this problem before it occurs, parents need to help their children overcome fear of the dentist early in life.

A child’s fear of the dentist is most severe when he has never visited the dentist’s office or visits infrequently. In fact, infrequent visits to the dentist can help create and exacerbate a child’s fear. Instead of avoiding the dentist, help your child face the fear head-on.

1. Acknowledge His Fear

Fear is a perfectly natural human response. It tends to creep in when thinking about trying something new or experiencing something that is not familiar. Let your child know that many people have the same fear of visiting the dentist as he does.

Avoid overrating, downplaying or making fun of your child’s fear, as this will only make the child feel worse. Let your child know that you understand his fear to help him ultimately overcome it.

2. Explore the Child’s Fears

Use this step to help your child separate his thoughts.

  • Worry thought – Visiting the dentist is going to hurt.
  • Smart thought – If the child does not visit the dentist, he might end up with cavities that will eventually hurt.

3. Choose the Right Type of Dentist

Some dentists have more experience working with children than others. For example, some dentists specialize in pediatric treatment, such as Kool Smiles, and they tailor their services directly to children and their parents. Dentists who treat children frequently are more likely to understand their fears and know how to put them at ease.

4. Role-Play

You play as your child, and he plays the dentist. Share your own stories about the dentist and any fears that you had to overcome. If you have a funny story to tell, be sure to tell it.

5. Appropriate Response

Help him respond to his fear appropriately. Have him fight off his fear using the same imagination that created his fear of the dentist in the first place. For example, help him imagine a kind and funny dentist instead of a scary exam room or sharp tools.

6. Prevention

Let your child know that the way he feels now is a temporary situation. Once he starts visiting the dentist, his anxiety will subside, and he will start feeling more comfortable.