Pediatric Dentistry

Managing Childhood Fear of Dentists

Fear of the unknown is a real emotion, whether you are an adult or a child. But for children, who have no control over the situation, the fear of the unknown can be traumatic and distressing. Many children react to fear with panic attacks and tears when they are told they must visit a dentist because it is an unknown. They may have heard an adult talk about a dental visit, or they may have seen a dentist on a television show, but the child’s perception of a dentist can often bring about the same reaction as a doctor visit. To ensure your child has good oral health, begin overcoming dental anxiety by demystifying the visit.

Reasons Children Fear Dentists

Between the ages of two and eight, childhood fear comes in many forms and for many reasons. One of the main factors for overwhelming fear of your children’s first visit to the dentist is often his or her perception of other family members feelings toward dentists. Thus, your child’s anxiety level may be based on what their belief is about your perception of a dental visit. By overcoming dental anxiety, you may be taking the first step in helping your child become less anxious.

Other reasons children may fear dentists can include:

  • Emotional insecurity
  • Fear of strangers
  • Panic disorder
  • Fear of pain
  • Social anxiety
  • Concern about possible threats
  • Separation anxiety

Ways to Overcome Children’s Anxiety

Overcoming dental anxiety in children can often be relatively easy because they take their reaction cues from those they trust. You may be able to project positive feelings toward the dentist in a few simple ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Visit a pediatric dentist before baby’s second birthday.
  2. Role play a dental visit with your child and their favorite doll and make it fun.
  3. Keep your words simple. Don’t include shot, drill, hurt, etc.
  4. Avoid bribery because kids are smart enough to know something is probably wrong if they must be bribed.
  5. Find a television show they love with an episode about dentists and share it with them several times.
  6. Make brushing teeth a fun experience each night.

Using Positive Reinforcement Works

Pediatric dentists are typically specially trained to deal with overcoming dental anxiety in children, so finding one you trust can be the first step in developing good oral health for your young child. Finding a dentist for children in Langhorne and talking to your child about the dentist as if he or she were a friend may ease the first office visit anxiety for both of you.

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