My Child Has a Fear of the Dentist: How Can I Help?

Dental anxiety affects up to 20% of school-aged children — but it doesn’t have to affect yours. Our fun and friendly team at OK Tooth in Midtown Manhattan makes every visit relaxing, positive, and enjoyable for kids throughout New York City. 

When you start dental visits at a young age — and we recommend making the first appointment around their first birthday — you can help your child develop a healthy perspective of oral care and the dentists and hygienists who help care for their teeth.

We offer full-service pediatric dentistry to keep your kid’s teeth healthy and thriving from the moment those teeth emerge, including easy-to-follow oral hygiene habits, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants

What’s behind your child’s dental anxiety?

Kids aren’t born with dental anxiety, so why are so many afraid to sit in the dentist’s chair? The reason behind the fear is different for everyone. Here are some of the most common explanations we hear:

Even adults feel some of these emotions and anxieties heading to the dentist. Whether your child feels slightly nervous or outright terrified, we can help — and so can you. 

How to prevent dental anxiety in children

The best way to address dental anxiety is to nip it in the bud before it ever develops. You can help your child associate dental visits with positive experiences. 

Choose a kid-friendly dentist

Not all dentists treat children, and for a good reason. It takes a professional who loves families and children and possesses the patience and personality to create a welcoming environment that establishes a good foundation for lifelong dental care. 

That’s what we strive for here at OK Tooth. 

Lead by example

Kids love to mimic their parents, so if they witness you taking care of your teeth, they want to do the same. We encourage you to bring your child with you during your next checkup so they can see that there’s nothing to fear.

Previsits also eliminate the fear of the unknown. We’d love to meet your child ahead of their appointment so they can become familiar with the office and our staff.

Don’t be negative

It’s important to teach your child about good dental hygiene and that sugary foods and sodas harm their teeth, but they should never feel that going to the dentist is a form of punishment.

We don’t shame children for getting cavities, but we do take every opportunity to teach them cool ways to make brushing more enjoyable and habitual so they can avoid future problems.

Tell your child the truth

Telling your dog you’re going to the park when you’re really going to the vet may work to get your dog in the car, but this tactic backfires with children. 

Lying to your child about going to the dentist makes them mistrust you and us. It’s better to be up-front about the visit and turn a negative into a positive. Once they arrive, we join forces with you to ease your child’s anxiety. 

How to handle dental anxiety

If your child has already developed a fear of the dentist, it’s not too late to reverse it. Some of the preventive tips we outlined above can help kids with existing dental anxiety, too. Here are some more ways to ease their fear:

Some parents use a gold-star chart to reward good dental hygiene at home or play games that reinforce good dental habits. Our staff has a fun downloadable game sheet here to get you started. 

Most important, choose a dentist that gets kids — like our experienced team at OK Tooth. Contact us online or by phone to schedule a fear-free appointment for your child.

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