How You Can Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist

Happy child in a dental chair feeling no fear of the dentist

While we recommend starting your child’s routine dental care visits when he or she turns three years old, we welcome parents to bring their little ones along to their own dental appointments as early as they are comfortable doing so. “Starting them young” is one of the best ways to prevent your child from developing a fear of the dentist.

Of course, we know that sometimes, despite our best efforts as parents, kids still become shy or fearful of certain experiences—especially those in which they are unsure what to expect. Doctor and dental office visits may result in physical discomfort from time to time, and that fact can easily lead to anxiety and even extreme fear of the dentist.

Luckily, there are lots of preventative actions you can take as a parent to counteract dental anxiety in your child. Today’s post features just a few. If you need even more ideas, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Hempfield Family Dental Care—The Friendly Family Dentist You’ll Appreciate right here in Lancaster, PA.

Take Your Child to a Dentist That Understand Pediatrics

Even if your child seems to be entirely comfortable with the idea of visiting the dentist, bringing them to a dental practice that fully understands pediatric care is the best approach.

Children’s dentistry practitioners understand that making the dental treatment experience stress-free—and fun—is critical to helping the youngest patients build the confidence they need to banish dental anxiety.

Here at Hempfield Family Dental Care, Dr. Kolsun and staff tailor their approach to dental care for each individual age group and comfort level.

For kids who are new to the dental office experience, we create a “show and tell” atmosphere, so they know what to expect from all of the tools and dental equipment we use. Our friends—the Magic Squirt Gun and Mr. Thirsty (suction)—join us on the adventure, and we allow kids to try their hand at making them work, too!

The goal is to encourage a smile or a giggle and make kids forget that they were ever nervous or afraid.

Be a Strong Role Model

Fear of the dentist may affect up to 36 percent of the adult population, according to survey data cited in a recent peer-reviewed exploration of why people are afraid of receiving dental care. Unfortunately, it is likely that many of these individuals’ dental anxiety extends back to childhood.

Are you afraid of the dentist yourself? Now is the time to overcome your fear for the sake of your kids. By demonstrating that you “practice what you preach” in terms of the importance of routine dental care, it is crucial for you to keep up with dental visits, ideally every six months.

If you feel dental anxiety, just let us know! Our team is happy to work with you to put your fear of the dentist behind you. Furthermore, Dr. Kolsun uses only the most innovative dental tools and equipment designed to prioritize patient comfort. Especially if it has been a few years since you have visited a dental office, you may be surprised at the technology we have available today to ensure a painless experience.

Use Positive Reinforcement (But Do Not Resort to Bribery!)

Take your child out to do something they enjoy following their successful dental visit. Note, this “treat” does not need to incorporate sugary foods or snacks! You can provide them with extra screen time or a stop at a local park on your drive home from our office, for instance.

What you want to avoid, though, is telling your child ahead of time that if they go to the dentist, you will give them a prize or reward. Creating that expectation often does little to ease anxiety, and it may actually solidify negative behavior.

Tips to Reduce Fear of the Dentist Before Your Child’s Next Visit

In addition to the strategies of taking your child to a compassionate pediatric dentist, keeping up with your own dental care, and employing positive reinforcement to encourage your child’s best behavior at the dentist’s office, there are some tried and true tactics you can try, too.

Each of these will help your child feel more comfortable with the idea of visiting the dentist in the future.

Role Play “Dentist Office” at Home and Read Books About Visiting the Dentist

Kids love to play pretend, and just as you might play “house” or “school,” role-playing “dentist office” can be a lighthearted way to build excitement—instead of fear—over visiting a real-life dental office.

If you are not sure how to go about this dentist office make-believe play, simply read some age-appropriate books to your child about visiting the dentist. This list features seven great examples of books that will help kids get ready for the dentist, though there are many more, as well.

Talk About Why We Need Healthy Teeth

While you are reading books about the dentist to your children, they will likely have questions—kids always do! Use this opportunity to talk with them about why dental health is important.

Talk About What Kids Can Expect During a Dental Office Visit

Walk your kids through what generally happens during a visit to the dentist. Talk about how they will sit in a big, comfy chair and meet a lot of new friends. These new friends will look at their teeth and show them some exciting new tools they have probably never seen before!

Call back to the books about the dentist that you have read together, and ask them if they have questions or concerns they want to address with you.

Arrange a Pre-Appointment, If Necessary

If your child is still nervous or fearful about visiting us even after you have tried our other tips to alleviate dental anxiety, we would be happy to meet them in a pre-appointment setting. This may involve a meet and greet with our staff or an office tour.

Call us at 717.285.3440 to discuss your concerns, and we will see how we can help.

Hempfield Family Dental Care is Here to Make Your Dentist Office Visit Fun

No matter your age, if you are nervous about visiting the dentist, we understand that it can make you avoid visiting us. Here at Hempfield Family Dental, we like to have fun and chase away any fear of the dentist you may have! Get in touch with us today and make an appointment to discover how we are a different kind of family dental practice.