Conquer This Common Childhood Fear With These Helpful Tips

It’s all-too-common for children to experience fears when they are young and going through so many new experiences.

It’s hard for many adults to conquer their own fears, so just imagine how difficult it is for a child to face something they’re afraid of.

This is especially true with one necessary part of life that we all must face, but how we approach this fear can make all the difference.

Let’s face it, most (if not all) adults dislike going to the dentist.  The thought can bring forth feelings of anxiety in the best of us.

And for kids who are going to the dentist for the first time, the fear of the unknown can be downright petrifying.

They’re going to meet a stranger who will be poking around in their mouths with instruments while they’re told to lay still in a vulnerable position.  Just thinking about it can be unbearable.

Fear of the dentist – for both adults and kids – is so common that it has an official name:  Dentophobia.

But with a few preparations, parents can make sure that their child’s first – and subsequent – trips to the dentist leave no cause for concern.

Although the recommended age for a first dental cleaning is around age three, the earlier you start taking your child, the better so they can learn what to expect and see that the dentist’s office is not a place to fear.

Choosing a pediatric dentist is key because not only are they used to working with anxious children, they’ll often have cheerful offices full of toys, bright colors, and kid-sized equipment.

It’s also important to talk to your child ahead of their appointment and let them know what to expect.  Tell them there may be loud noises or equipment that looks scary, but that it’s nothing to be afraid of. 

Practice brushing and flossing, even looking around their mouth with a dental mirror (which can be purchased at the dollar store) as a kind of rehearsal with Mom and Dad before their appointment.

They can even play “dentist” by practicing on a doll or their favorite stuffed animal – or even with Mom and Dad as the patients!

Let them know that you will be able to go into the room with them, and that their first appointment will be nothing more than getting their teeth cleaned and looked at.

They may feel more comfortable if they bring their favorite stuffed animal or blanket with them – or even their favorite music to be played through headphones.

Most pediatric offices welcome families to visit ahead of their appointment so the child can feel comfortable that they’ve already scoped out the surroundings and met the dentist.  And they’ll probably get a sticker or two and a toothbrush to take home!

Many adults have had less-than-fun dental procedures or have a fear of the dentist themselves, and kids are very good at picking up on tension.  

As parents, we need to be there to support and encourage them, even when we are experiencing our own anxieties.

If they do throw a tantrum or refuse to sit still, stay calm and reassuring.  Don’t force them through the appointment the first time around if they can’t calm down, as this will only make future appointments more difficult.

The most important thing is to make going to the dentist a positive experience.  Make sure that family members, especially older siblings, talk to your child about having a good experience at the dentist.

Or even bring a friend’s child who has already been to the dentist along to the appointment.  Sometimes a child needs another child who has been through it to tell them it’s all going to be ok.

Above all, be positive, stay calm and reassuring, and make a trip to the dentist a fun experience.  

Treat it like a new adventure and before long, your child’s fears will disappear.  

The first appointment is often the key, and once they’re comfortable, they’ll have a good start with their dental hygiene – something that’s very important to overall health for all of us.

What are your tips for preparing a child to visit the dentist?  How have you made it a positive experience for your child?  Leave us your ideas.