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.