How to Ease Your Child’s Dental Fears

A dentist celebrates a young child's commitment to their oral health

We wish every child looked forward to going to the dentist in Houston, but sadly, that isn’t always the case. Some children are very scared of going to the dentist. They fear the unknown. Plus, they worry it is going to hurt. Often, children associate a dental checkup with a doctor’s appointment, which makes them think of shots. Eek!

We understand that this is a real struggle for many kids, so we’ve put together this list of ten things parents can do to ease a child’s dental fears.

Start Taking Kids to the Dentist Early

One of the best ways to ease children’s dental fears is to start taking them early. If they grow up going to the dentist for checkups regularly, like their pediatric well visits, they will grow accustomed to going. The more we do something, the less scary it is.

When should you start taking your child to the dentist? According to the American Dental Association, “Your child’s first dental visit should take place after that first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. Why so early? As soon as your baby has teeth, he or she can get cavities. Being proactive about your child’s dental health today can help keep his or her smile healthy for life.”

Be a Role Model

Parents, your kids are watching you and listening to you. When it comes to oral care and dental hygiene, you must be a good role model. Kids will follow your lead. So, when it comes time to visit the dentist, don’t express fear or anxiety. Kids will feed off your anxiety. Instead, treat your dental visit the way you want your children to treat their dental appointments.

Tell Them What to Expect (But Watch Your Words)

If this is your child’s first visit to the dentist, he or she will likely have a lot of questions. Answer them! Kids will feel more prepared if parents take the time to tell them what to expect when they visit the dentist. Try your best to explain what will happen during the visit in kid-friendly terms.

With that being said, you also need to watch your words. Some words, such as “hurt” or “shot,” are trigger words for kids. If kids ask you a question you are unsure how to answer without causing fear (like “Will getting a cavity filled hurt?”), suggest your child ask the dentist instead of saying something like “It will only hurt a little.”

Do Some Role Playing

Another way to calm a child’s dental fears is to do some role-playing. Take turns with your child acting like a pretend dentist or patient or have them pretend a stuffed animal is the dental patient. This will give you an opportunity to point out that going to the dentist isn’t scary, as well as explain what typically happens during a dental checkup.

Read Books

Use the power of literature to alleviate some of your child’s dental fears. There are many books on the topic you can check out from your local library. Here are some titles young children may appreciate:

  • Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer)
  • Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer
  • Behold! No Cavities!: A Visit to the Dentist (SpongeBob SquarePants) by Nickelodeon
  • Tooth Trouble by Jane Clarke
  • What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Laura Rader
  • Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig) by Scholastic
  • Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Rey
  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Watch Videos

In addition to books, look for videos designed to ease children’s fears about the dentist. You can find videos featuring their favorite characters (such as Sesame Street), as well as educational videos that detail what dental visits are like for kids on YouTube. Watching videos before their appointment will help kids prepare and calm their worries.

Bring a Comforting Toy

Ask your Houston dentist if it is okay if your child brings a comfort item to the appointment, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. This will also give your child something to do with their hands while the dental care team is examining their teeth.

Schedule Your Child’s Dental Visit at the Right Time

When it is time to schedule your child’s dental visit, be strategic with the timing. For example, do not schedule your appointment when you know your child will be tired, such as around naptime or after a full school day. Additionally, avoid scheduling your appointment around mealtimes when your child will be hungry. Tired and hungry kids are cranky kids. Cranky kids will not find their dental checkups enjoyable. However, don’t feed your child right before the appointment.

Teach Calming Techniques

If your child is prone to anxiety, try to teach him or her calming techniques. Ask the Dentist recommends, “You can employ relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises to slow down your child’s physical reaction to anxiety (i.e. increased heart rate, etc.).” Teach your child to inhale and exhale slowly.

Keep in mind that your Houston dentist understands that kids may feel anxious and will employ a variety of techniques to ease their worries. For instance, at Greenspoint Dental, we strive to make all of our patients feel comfortable and relaxed during their visit.

Make It a Special Trip

One last tip. When it comes time for your child’s dental appointment, make it a special trip. Add a trip to the park or a stop by their favorite store after a successful appointment. This will make your child look forward to their dental visit and they will be more willing to cooperate. For instance, we know one mom who always treats her child to some quality one-on-one time after a dental checkup. Her child knows that her annual dental checkup also means she gets to do something fun with mom. As a result, it’s something she looks forward to every year.

Schedule your child’s appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston today!