Most caring parents will want their kids to have healthy teeth accompanied by splendid oral hygiene habits.

This can be a daunting task for some parents as a trip to the dentist with their children is never a fun experience.

Some kids are scared of going to the dentist, this fear at times can be traced to the parents own dental fears. Luckily, the problem of dental anxiety in children can be tackled by parents.

Below are tips to help parents manage dental anxiety in children:

1. Explain the importance of good oral hygiene

Most children will not understand why going to the dentist is important. If they are old enough to talk, they might ask, “Why go to the dentist?”. Therefore, parents must come up with a tangible outcome that will serve as a demonstration to their children on why maintaining a good oral hygiene is very important. It is prudent that as a parent you explain to your child the benefits that come with visiting a dentist and maintaining excellent oral hygiene. Explain to them what having a good smile and healthy teeth will do to their morale. Explain the effects of not having a good smile as well. This way, no matter how young they are, they will begin to appreciate the trips to the dentist.

2. Explain to them what to expect

Children hate being in places and with people they cannot familiarise themselves with. Therefore, parents must ensure that they ease their children’s minds by simply explaining to them what will be happening at the dental clinic. Try and explain to them in a simple and more elaborate manner about the white teeth fillings or the resin tooth filling they are going to get. Avoid going into details about the complexity of the procedure because they might not understand you and also because most dentists are trained to tackle some of these questions when attending to the kids.

3. Start early

Taking your child to the dentist from an early age will help them familiarise themselves with the dental experience. This will help them cope with dental anxiety as they grow older. When children go from a young age they will only be riding in the chair and getting their teeth counted and they will develop a relationship with the dentist and the practice. This will help take some of the anxiety away. Your dentist should be able to advise you on the best time to start bringing your children.

4. Avoid offering them bribes

Offering your child a bribe does not help them with their apprehension of visiting a dentist. This is something that most experts discourage in parents. Your child does not benefit from a sugary treat after the dentist has advised against eating sweets that cause cavities. Instead, tell them how proud you are of them. Offer them compliments and praise to uplift their spirit after a trip to the dental hospital.

5. Get a friendly dentist

You may know a good dentist who is not familiar or good at treating children. Letting such a dentist treat your child will only worsen their anxiety. Instead, let your child be treated by a pediatric dentist who is well trained on how to handle children. Such dentists make a visit to the dentist fun for children as well as educative for them. They offer pre-visits to children where they will meet the staff and see some of the equipment used in dental works. So when your kid goes to dentist, ensure that they go to a friendly place that they are familiar with.

Has your child suffered from anxiety when going to the dentist? Please SHARE your experience in the below comments.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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  • Both my husband and I are dentists and too often we see children come to the dental clinic and are absolutely traumatised. The kids behave erratically and cry till their parents surrender and take the kids away. Unfortunately, repeated cycles will lead to children not attending the dentist and generally these are the kids that need dental treatment asap. The best thing you can do, as parents, to reduce your child’s dental anxiety is to take them to the dental clinic as soon as their 1st tooth appears. Inform the dentist that this is their first visit. The dentist will have a look inside their mouth, introduce your child to the various instruments used in the clinic and probably give them a ‘goodies bag’ as an incentive to come back for regular visits. Do some role playing at home to mimic the dental clinic. There are also children books available to teach kids what happens at the dental clinic and the consequences of not seeing a dentist regularly. It is equally imperative for the kids to join their parents when the parents are getting their dental treatment performed. If the parents are scared of the dentist, the kids will be too.

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  • My kids are wonderful with going to the dentist. Any tips for their Mum????? lol

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  • I’ve been planning on taking my daughter for her first check up but I’m completely freaked out by the dentist myself! I don’t want to transfer my fear to her :(

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  • Great tips. I’ve always taken my kids for their first visit with me or my Husband when we’ve had a check up. The first visit is usually very quick and just about familiarising them/getting them comfortable but having a great/friendly dentist makes all the difference.

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  • I always brought my kids along to the dentist when I was treated myself and have taken them to the dentist for check-ups every half year since they were around 2 years old, some even a bit earlier. Now my kids love to go to the dentist ! My son had some molars removed in the hospital under full anaesthetics, but this incident never caused him fear. We’ve always had great child friendly dentists.

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  • I thought my son would suffer anxiety with the dentist. I don’t love the dentist but have never shared my thoughts or fears with mys on. He has Aspergers and heightened sensory awareness so I was particularly worried. However, his Dental Hygienist is awesome and so helpful and friendly. She even allows us to purchase their mouth wash as my son loves it. Many other mouth washes are too sharp and strong for him, but he loves the dentist’s one.

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  • Thank you for the informative article.

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  • Nothing better than a good dentist to help children through. Regular check ups also help if they can go to the dentist and there is nothing to be done. These days dentists are more aware of their once bad image and go out of their way with the littlies I find.

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  • My daughter had her first dental visit when she was around four. It was a dentist used to work with kids. A very short visit, a “cleaning” just with water, the dentist was very kind, she had no rush, she was asking questions, making my daughter feel comfortable. And she gave her some nice stickers at the end. It was a success! :-) And I used to bring her with me when I went to the dentist. I am luckily not nervous when I go for a check-up.

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  • My 12 year old recently suffered trauma to his front teeth, requiring a dental visit and follow up appointment. Nothing worries this child and he took it all in his stride with a smile on his face the whole time. Knowing his normal reaction, I took advantage and took my 3 year old along to watch and told her what was happening to her brother. She thought it was great. I could not have taken her to see her other brother being treated if he was injured instead because he is more nervous. It is about expectations I think.

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  • I suffer from anxiety regarding the dentist due to bad experiences. I don’t want my toddler to do the same. I’m hunting around for a nice one

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  • and if you are anxious about going to the dentist do not take them with you when you visit as you will be very nervous and they will pick up on this.

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  • I cannot agree more with with starting early and finding a friendly dentist! Mine was a little reluctant around 3 years of age – but a great dentist who was very patient and light hearted has been the best thing ever. My now 9 year old enjoys going to the dentist and even makes the dentist cards from time to time. It was very funny when she told him off once when he was making a custom mouth guard for sport.

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  • We were bribed by matchbox cars etc. We still have some of them. Some we gave to children who had no toys after severe floods and everything floated away

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  • Good tips – important to have a friendly dentist.

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