4 Steps for Easing your Kids’ Fear of the Dentist

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4 Steps for Easing your Kids’ Fear of the Dentist

Mar 15, 2019

If you are a new parent, you will soon have to think about taking your child to the pediatric dentist for their first dental treatment.

You know that it may not be an easy process. Fear of the dentist, known as dental phobia or dental anxiety, is common among youth and adults. Children can be excited or terrified by new experiences, and considering how important it is to have regular dental visits (especially for kids, who are much more vulnerable to tooth decay), there is a lot riding on the prevention or management of dental anxiety at a young age. To help you with this, Kensington Dental Clinic has gathered these four proven steps to give your child the best dental experience possible.


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1. Eliminate your fear or nervousness of the dental office

Your attitude when visiting the dentist is an enormous factor in your child’s dental fear. It is proven that a parent’s dental fear will contribute to what their child feels about going to the dentist. Kids can pick up on a parent’s anxiety quickly, and this can put them on edge. If you are worried about your child’s first trip to the dentist, or you have dental fear yourself, your child may notice the change in your mood and become cautious. Do what you can to manage any anxiety you may have before and during the trip to the dental appointment. There are many methods available online to help you reduce anxiety and calm your nerves in a stressful situation. Breathing, visualization exercises, and other relaxation techniques are among the most commonly used methods.

If you find that you are worried about the dentist mishandling a situation with your child and causing your son or daughter undue stress, a dose of logic can remove that fear from your mind. Dentists are trained and experienced in handling children in this exact situation every day. They have most likely seen far more scared or uncooperative children than yours and have gotten them in and out of the chair without causing any trauma. Trust that the dentist knows how to handle young patients – they wouldn’t have a successful business otherwise!

2. Prepare your child for the pediatric dentist

There are steps that you can take, both days and months before an appointment, to get your child ready to go to the dentist. It is recommended that you take your child for their first dental visit as early as the age of 1, when their teeth are beginning to fill in. Although they won’t remember the experience, having a prior dental record can smooth things along during later check-ups.

When talking about dental exams with your child, do not paint them as a negative experience. This means you should avoid offering them toys and other rewards if they don’t cry or complain (rewards for finishing or “doing a good job” are fine), since the child will immediately begin to wonder why going to the dentist might make them cry. It is also important to not get the child’s hopes up. Don’t say that it will be quick, comfortable, or painless – if you are proven wrong, they will lose some trust in you. Simply stress that going to the dentist is important. If they ask what the dentist is going to do, a popular answer among parents and dentists is “counting your teeth” and “checking your smile”. There’s no need to get more detailed than that.

A good way to get your child used to the idea of the dentist is to read him or her a book on the subject of dental care. There are many options; any local book store with a children’s section is sure to have material related to going to the dentist. It’s such a popular subject, in fact, that you might be able to find a book featuring one of your kid’s favourite cartoon characters. Reading a book to your child is also a good opportunity to do some role playing. Pretending to be the dentist and using the narrative of the book while inspecting your child’s teeth can be a good way to get them used to the process.

3. Keep the child occupied while in the office

You can probably remember a time during your childhood where you were forced to wait somewhere. It is rarely enjoyable to have nothing to do when you are little. Waiting at a dentist’s office can compound that unpleasant feeling, especially if the child is expecting an uncomfortable situation that he or she would rather be done with quickly. The anticipation can cause your child’s stress about the situation to build, so it is recommended to bring some distractions along to keep the situation lighthearted.

Most dental offices that provide dental pediatrics have a small section of toys, games or activity books, and this may be enough to retain your child’s attention in the waiting room, at least on the first visit. There may not be enough variety for later visits, however, or your child may not like the selection available. The safest bet is to bring something that you know they enjoy, whether it be a book, a toy, or possibly a game system.

Depending on the dentist (and the toy), kids may also be allowed to bring something to the chair with them to occupy them during dental procedures. If you have reason to believe that he or she might have trouble during the appointment without bringing something along, ask the reception staff if the dentist will allow it.

4. Speak with the dental office

There are a lot of potential bumps in the road when your child goes to the dentist for the first time, and you don’t have the power to tackle them all yourself. Once the child is in the dental chair, it is up to the dental staff to give him or her a comfortable experience while they complete the dental work. So why not empower them with the knowledge of a parent and give them the best chance possible? While you are booking the child’s appointment, ask the reception staff what information about the child can be useful to them. Let them know if your child has a history of nervousness at the dentist or other medical office, or if it is their first time.

If the dental staff has any questions, answer them to the best of your ability. Also, although this may go against your parental instincts somewhat, follow the professionals’ instructions. If they ask you to come in with your child, by all means do, and follow whatever instructions they decide to give you once you’re there. If they do not ask you to come in, just stay put in the waiting room, even if you hear your child making a fuss. As mentioned previously, pediatric dentists are highly experienced with all kinds of children, and they know what to do in the event of a tantrum.

After the appointment, it might also be wise to speak with the dentist or other staff about how your child did. They may have advice based on your child on how you can prepare him or her for the next appointment. They may even have advice not mentioned here that is newly circulating in the dental community, or advice based on personal experience that relates more to your region. Either way, an open and frank discussion with the staff, and following through with any advice they might have, can be the thing that improves your child’s dental health for the rest of their life. Minimizing or eliminating dental fear can help your child grow up healthier, save both of you money on future dental bills, and pass a trust of the dentist down to future generations.

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Children Dentistry in Edmonton

Finding a pediatric dentist or child dentist in Edmonton for your child may create anxiety for people with dental phobia, but just remember that the right dentist can make your dental visit calm and enjoyable.

At Kensington Dental Clinic, located in Edmonton, Alberta we enjoy treating patients of all ages – from children to seniors. Dr. Rana Ibadi makes people feel at home with her gentle and kind manner and is committed to providing a pleasant and relaxed dental experience for your children and your whole family. Book your appointment today!

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