How to Help a Child Who Is Terrified of the Dentist


A trip to the dentist causes some children fear and anxiety. Helping your child face his fears of the dentist makes the regular check-ups more tolerable for everyone involved. Whether the anxiety stems from a negative experience or a fear of the unknown, addressing the cause helps your child work through his fear. Your child’s personality and method of dealing with fear also play a role in conquering the dreaded trip to the dentist.

Step 1

Care for your child’s teeth as soon as they emerge to set her up for a healthier mouth. By taking care of her teeth and teaching her proper oral hygiene, you reduce the risk of dental procedures beyond basic cleanings.

Step 2

Let your child watch you get your teeth cleaned. This gives your child a chance to see exactly what happens at the dentist without participating directly.

Step 3

Take your child to a pediatric dentist if one is available. Pediatric dentists have extra, specific training to handle children who may have a fear of the dentist. Pediatric dental offices are usually colorful and child-friendly, making your child feel more comfortable.

Step 4

Schedule the appointment at a time of day when your child is most cooperative and relaxed. This increases the chances of cooperation during the appointment.

Step 5

Visit the dentist’s office before the actual appointment if possible. This gives your child a chance to become familiar with the environment and meet the staff without having any work performed. Consider finding a new dentist if your child doesn’t respond well or if the staff doesn’t interact well with your child.

Step 6

Stick with the same dentist once you find one that interacts well with your child. This helps your child build up trust with the dentist to reduce fears for future dental procedures.

Step 7

Keep your own negative experiences or fears about the dentist to yourself. These stories might confirm your child’s fears or tell her that there is something to fear at the dentist’s office.

Step 8

Tell your child about upcoming dental appointments in a straightforward way without making a big deal about them. Give him warning before the appointment so you have time to address fears.

Step 9

Talk to your child about specific fears she expresses before the appointment. Reassure her about the appointment and the issues she raises. Let her know that you will stay with her if she wants or let her go back into the exam room alone if she prefers, depending on your child’s age.

Step 10

Bring an item that provides your child with comfort, such as a stuffed animal or favorite toy. Let him keep the item with him throughout the appointment.



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