What to do When Your Child is Scared of the Dentist

Dental anxiety (dentophobia) in kids can begin at a very young age. Often, it’s the result of a bad first experience because of a painful toothache or emergency, or because of things they’ve heard or seen elsewhere. Maybe they’ve seen scary stories about dentists on television or heard stories at school.

Fortunately, our pediatric dentist in Vista has some very effective tips to help kids overcome the fear of dentists.

Schedule Checkups as Young as Possible

If your child’s first visit to a dentist is because of a painful toothache, they will often associate the dentist’s office with a place that is uncomfortable. The best thing to do is have your child see a pediatric dentist for a checkup before any issues arise.

Pediatricians and pediatric dental specialists all agree that children should see a dentist for their first checkup before their first birthday or whenever their first tooth erupts (whichever comes first.)

Although these early visits may feel like fun, playful visits, they help establish a friendly familiarity with our pediatric dentist in Vista. That way as your child grows, we can easily perform checkups, cleanings, or take X-rays. We will gradually introduce steps to the checkup as your child is comfortable, at their own pace.

Treat Issues Early, Before They Become Painful

The most important tip to reduce dental phobia in children is to treat all dental needs as quickly as possible.

Why? Because small cavities—which only need a filling—can easily evolve into more serious dental infections that require a crown or pulpotomy. Children’s teeth are not as dense as permanent adult teeth, so the decay can quickly spread into adjacent tooth structures or other teeth.

The least invasive option is to treat issues as soon as you can when the restoration process is simpler and shorter. In turn, you’ll also be saving money on total dental care costs and maximizing the amount of tooth structure preserved.

Reserve Appointments First Thing in the Morning

Those of us who have dental anxiety tend to do better with appointments scheduled first thing in the morning. Children who still take naps can also arrange for their appointment to be right after naptime when they’re well rested. By getting enough sleep and seeing the dentist shortly thereafter, there’s less time for your child to worry about their visit and they won’t feel as cranky as they do when they’re tired.

Talk About Sedation

If your child needs specific treatments, such as a filling, pulpotomy, or something similar, Dr. Houri may recommend dental sedation during their visit. Sedation is a safe way to help your child relax throughout their appointment. Many never realize what’s even going on, because they are so distracted. This service allows us to safely tend to your child’s oral health needs in a timely manner.

Allow the Dental Team to Explain Things

Our pediatric dentist in Vista has special training in behavioral management for young patients. As such, our staff will use modified approaches to care to explain things in a non-confrontational manner. This special measure eliminates unnecessary anxiety, fear, or dentophobia in kids.

Although parents are well-meaning, they may inadvertently use phrases or words which cause alarm. Such as “shot”, “hurt”, or “afraid.” This can trigger a chain reaction in your child that is harder for them to come back from.

Typically, we use a tell-show-do approach to care. First, we tell your child in a kid-friendly way what will be happening (such as brushing their teeth) then show them on their hand, followed by using the instrument in their mouth. We may even let your child touch or play with certain things in the office to help familiarize them with the process.

Call Our Pediatric Dentist in Vista

Kids love coming to All Smiles Children’s Dentistry. If you experienced dentophobia as a child, your kids don’t have to go through the same experience. We are happy to provide you with tips to help kids overcome fear of dentists early on so that they can look forward to their oral care visits in the future.

Contact our pediatric dentist in Vista today to reserve your child’s next—or first—checkup!

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