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My Child is Afraid of the Dentist

It's heart wrenching to experience the screams of a terrified child at the dentist's office. Yet, try as we might to assuage fears, some kids are just afraid of the dentist. But, even a child that is afraid of the dentist has to go. If you look at the experience from a child's point of view, it's easy to understand why going to the dentist can be scary. Your child is put into a chair, surrounded by strangers with masks and subject to poking and prodding with alien-looking tools.

The lights are bright and the noises are unfamiliar. Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it? Perhaps one of the factors preventing children from becoming quickly accustomed to going to the dentist is the fact that visits are few and far between. Just like visiting with a grandparent once a year around the holidays can be anxiety-provoking, going to the dentist twice a year doesn't give kids a chance to get used to the experience. Still, as they grow, most kids do manage to at least tolerate their bi-annual exams.

Help for Parents to Make Dental Visits Less Scary:

  • Share the experience. Let your young child tag along when you go to the dentist. He'll see that you tolerate the experience and be less afraid when it's his turn.
  • Make an appointment with a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have a lot of experience handling young children and a more child friendly environment with fun chairs, games and sometimes even videos to relax kids before their appointment.
  • Make brushing and flossing fun with charts kids can bring and review with the dentist.
  • Let your child sit in your lap. Not only will you be able to gently hold a scared child, sitting in your lap may be comforting.
  • Schedule early exams. Kids who have been to the dentist regularly since they were little tend to be less afraid.
  • Make it an adventure. Most pediatric dentists reward kids with a small toy or sticker. If yours doesn't, tell your child you'll do something special after his visit.

Even with the best laid plans, some kids are just terrified of the dentist. Children who have to undergo painful dental procedures when they are young may be especially prone to fear because they associate the dentist with pain. If your child experiences a lot of anxiety before a dental appointment, talk to the dentist or your child's pediatrician about what you can do.