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How to Calm a Child Scared of the Dentist

A visit with a dentist can be a very scary proposition to a child:

  • She’s lying a chair in a strange (unfamiliar) room.
  • Lots of sounds she’s never heard and things she’s never seen before are all around.
  • There’s a stranger with a mask and gloves on poking in her mouth.
  • This stranger is doing so with shiny and sharp objects.
  • Sometimes the stranger places a needle in her mouth and stings her – really bad

It’s no wonder a child can get pretty scared!

Read below for some tips on how to help calm your nervous child.

  • It’s best to get your child to the dentist at an early age. Even age 1 isn’t too early (or when your child’s first tooth appears). Going to the dentist when very young will help her come to know the dentist well and that goes a long way to allaying fears.
  • As you prepare your child for her first visit – especially if she’s older – don’t give too many details, which can raise fear. Instead, be positive as you discuss the coming visit. Be truthful – don’t say she’ll have no cavities – because if she does end up needing treatment she could end up distrusting you and the dentist.
  • Don’t say “shot,” “pain” or similar words. The dentist’s staff will have their own words they’ll use to describe procedures to your child in ways that will help alleviate her anxiety – they’re pros at this. Consider telling your child the dentist will be checking to make sure her teeth are strong and healthy.
  • You may want to play “dentist and patient” with your child before going to the dentist. Count your child’s teeth. Show her how to brush. Stay away from making drilling noises. Let your child play dentist with a doll or stuffed animal. Also consider getting picture books that explain about what going to the dentist is all about.
  • Don’t tell your child about your own dentist appointments. You may think this would helpful but telling your child about how brave you were and how “it didn’t hurt at all” when describing getting a filling, a tooth extraction, etc. really won’t make things easier for your child.
  • Young children fuss, wiggle and whine. It comes with the territory. So don’t worry too much if your child can’t seem to sit still in the chair; your dentist undoubtedly has seen this many times before and knows how to handle it.
  • Let your child know that going to the dentist at least twice a year is a “must do,” not a choice. Explain how important good oral hygiene is to your child and that twice yearly dental visits are part of that regime. What’s more, don’t whine or complain when you have your own dentist appointment; it’s important to model good behavior for your children.

For more tips on how to calm a child anxious about visiting the dentist, give us a call: we’re happy to give you some child-tested tips that have worked well for us over the years.

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