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Kids Nervous About the Dentist? Here's How to Help Them Overcome It

You look at your calendar and a small amount of dread creeps in when you realize your child has a checkup with us soon, and these visits can be challenging thanks to your child’s dental anxiety. The reality is that this reaction isn’t uncommon — about 30% of young kids have some degree of dental fear and anxiety.

One of the primary goals of our pediatric dentistry services at Hillsdale Dental Care is to not let this anxiety get in the way of important early dental care, especially if you consider that nearly half of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 have tooth decay. Instead, our team, under the direction of Dr. Roge Jacob and Dr. Magdalena Azzarelli, wants to stay one step ahead of your child’s dental health through foundational care.

While we can cover our end, you play an important role in setting the right tone for early dental care, which includes dealing with dental fear and anxiety. Here are some tips to help your child cope.

Be careful about your own dental fear

We referred to some numbers surrounding kids and dental anxiety, but these numbers don’t improve much among adults. So, if you have your own dental fears, it’s important that you don’t pass these on to your kids. One report found that 40% of parents gave their kids a negative attitude after a visit to the dentist.

So, if you have your own struggles with dental anxiety, it's important to keep that from your child as much as you can. You might even find someone else to bring your child in to see us if you’re worried that your anxiety will be noticeable.

Don’t use going to the dentist as a threat

It’s also important to avoid talking about the dentist in a threatening manner so your child perceives dental care in a negative light. Steer clear of threats like, “If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get cavities, and you’ll have to go to the dentist to get a filling.”

Instead, maybe try a more dentist-friendly approach: “If you brush your teeth, you’re going to have strong teeth, and you’re going to make the dentist so happy.” 

Explain why dental care is important

Kids love to learn, so we encourage you to explain why good dental care is something they should smile about. Explain how dental exams ensure that they’ll have strong teeth that help them chew, smile, and talk long into the future.

Make the dental exam part of a bigger outing

Another tip is to make your visit with us a part of a bigger outing so your child has something to look forward to afterward. Try not to position the outing as a reward for doing something unpleasant. Instead, say something like, “First, we’re going to the dentist for a quick check-up, and then we’ll head to the [insert favorite activity].” This approach is much better than, “If you can get through your dental visit, we’ll go get ice cream.”

The goal is to not make a big deal about the dental visit and to make it part of a day that will be full of good memories.

Bring their favorite toy or video

It’s also a good idea to let them bring their favorite toys or, for older kids, let them play a video game or watch some TV to put them at ease. If your child settles in with an episode of Paw Patrol, it will relax them and reduce their fear before they get into our chair.

If you prepare your child well, we build on these great efforts and make sure that their visits with us are productive and as stress-free as possible.

To schedule your child’s visit, or if you have more questions about dealing with dental anxiety, please contact our office in San Jose, California.

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