Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


Child Dental Anxiety: How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

A child smiling at the dentist after overcoming her fear of the dentist.

Does your child have a fear of the dentist? It’s surprisingly common! Some parents may think that it’s normal, but childhood dental anxiety can be problematic – for both the dentist and the child’s oral health! Fortunately, advancements in modern dentistry have made everything from examinations to treatments easier.

Despite these advancements, there are many reasons that people from children to adults have a fear of the dentist. If your child is worried about their upcoming appointment, read on to learn how to understand and reduce their anxieties.

How Common is Fear of the Dentist?

In both children and adults, a fear of the dentist is estimated to affect up to 20 percent of the population in the US! Of course, these concerns don’t all rise to the level of a clinically diagnosable “dental phobia.” In many cases, fear of the dentist is nothing more than a fear of potential embarrassment from finding cavities or other signs of declining oral health.

However, in some cases, fear of the dentist can be severe. Some people are so paralyzed by the idea of going to the dentist that they skip years of dental check-ups and cleanings. At this stage, it’s more likely a true phobia than mere discomfort at the idea of needing extensive treatment from a dentist.

Are Children More Likely to Be Afraid of the Dentist?

Interestingly, true dental phobia affects children or adults the same. While some people would prefer not to need to go to a dentist, in the same way they would like to avoid the need of visiting any doctor, they still schedule their appointments as needed.

True dental phobia can afflict anyone, though adults are often more problematic. While children may develop a strong aversion to dental visits, as long as their parents bring them to the dentist and solutions can be found to treat them, most issues are avoided. When adults have dental phobia, they are unlikely to go to the dentist even when they have pain or other major dental health concerns.

Is Fear of the Dentist a Concern for Health Professionals?

Absolutely! Any hesitation to work with medical professionals who look out for your health is concerning. In the case of oral health, most issues start small but can progress rapidly until they pose risks to your overall health. For instance, the ties between gum disease and your heart health are becoming more apparent as research continues!

When children are afraid of the dentist, they may take steps that worsen their ability to maintain good oral health:

  • Ignoring or hiding tooth pains
  • Hiding issues with bleeding gums
  • Refusing to attend appointments
  • Being uncooperative during appointments

When dental health risks are ignored or untreated due to uncooperative behavior, they only get worse. Minor cavities that could be treated with fillings may eventually need root canals. Teeth that could be saved may be lost. Minor gum disease may progress to more threatening periodontal disease.

How Can You Reduce Fear of the Dentist in Your Children?

The causes of childhood dental anxiety often come from the anticipation of a dental visit and their expectations. You can prevent a fear of the dentist from developing by being pro-active:

Avoid Sharing Negative Experiences – If you’ve ever experienced minor or major pain related to a dental visit, be careful about sharing that experience with your child. Even a minor pain, such as sensitivity following a filling, can be terrifying for a child to imagine, despite being minor concern for yourself.

Walk Them Through the Experience – For a child’s first visits, you can set their expectations in a positive light, versus allowing them to assume what the experience will be like. Let them know that they’ll meet with the dentist and how quick and easy the exam will be.

Remind Them of the Benefits – A trip to the dentist may seem unnecessary for a child who doesn’t understand the reasons it’s important. Talk to them about how dentists keep their teeth healthy and strong and can prevent toothaches and other problems.

Keep Your Smile Healthy

We want to help you maintain good oral health and a beautiful smile. Regular teeth cleaning and dental check-ups are an important part of your routine, just like brushing and flossing. Schedule an appointment with us or call and take the first step toward keeping your smile radiant.

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

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