Surveys indicate that between 5-20% of school-age children have a fear of dentists. There are several triggers of Dental Fear and Anxiety (DFA), including injections, tooth extraction, teeth drilling, restorations, and the sight of dental instruments.
Easing Children's Fear Of The Dentist
Easing children’s fear of the dentist is important for both their short and long-term oral health. Addressing children’s fears now will ensure they continue to seek dental care as they grow up throughout their teenage and adult years. It has been proven that fear of the dentist in children can compromise their oral care treatment outcome and create stress among dental staff . The more fearful a child is, the more likely they are to delay treatment, which can be extremely detrimental for their oral, and overall health. For these reasons, easing children’s fear and dental anxiety as early as possible is critical.
Tips To Overcome Children's Fear Of The Dentist
There are several tips to help overcome children’s fear of the dentist.
Communication and Language
Communication is key. Talk to your child about their fears and apprehensions. Avoid words that might frighten them like "hurt" or "pain". Stay as positive and lighthearted as possible when speaking about the dentist, and never answer questions that you don’t know the answer to when it comes to their oral health. Talking about the benefits of a clean, healthy mouth will help children see the value of visiting their dentist regularly.
Establishing a Relationship
One of the first major steps in easing children’s fear of the dentist is allowing children to establish a friendly relationship with their dentist before an oral health examination takes place. If a child is relaxed and feels safe with their dentist, they are less likely to become frightened when they see dental tools appear or hear the sounds of dental equipment.
The younger a child is when they go to the dentist, the less likely they are to create fearful ideas around check-ups and visits. Bringing your child to the dentist when they are young will allow them to become familiar with the surroundings. In turn, they will be a lot more relaxed when the time comes for their own examination.
Make It Fun
Games about oral health and the dentist are important when it comes to your child’s understanding of these routines. Reading books, watching videos, and playing games around oral care can help children associate the dentist with fun, not fear.
Be A Role Model
Showing your child that there’s nothing to fear is one of the best tips in helping them to ease children's dental anxiety. Even if you have DFA yourself, don’t let it show. Children are incredibly perceptive, so if they see you relaxed and at ease, they are more likely to act and feel similarly.
1. Dental Fear and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents: Qualitative Study Using YouTube, J Med Internet Res, Published online 2013 Feb 22; available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3636260/#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20DFA%20in,difficult%20or%20impossible%20%5B3%5D.
2. Children’s Perception of Their Dentists, NCBI, Maha AlSarheeda, 2011 Apr; published online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3075993/#b2-dent5_p0186
3. Dental Fear and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents: Qualitative Study Using YouTube, J Med Internet Res, Published online 2013 Feb 22; available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3636260/#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20DFA%20in,difficult%20or%20impossible%20%5B3%5D.