Children's fear of the dentist

Some children have a huge fear of the dentist! In some cases, it’s the parents’ and grandparents’ bad experiences - in another era - that fuel these fears.

Our children have the chance to have dental care of exceptional quality, done by professionals who are concerned about their patients and the results generated. We’re very far from the “teeth pullers" from our grandparents’ time! I remember my grandfather telling me this crazy story where he drank a bottle of whiskey to numb himself before heading out to the dentist to have his teeth pulled out! In the 1950s, oral anesthesia mouth  was not very popular!

We can feed our child’s fears...

My mother quickly associated the dentist to pain because that’s what her father had passed on to her. And so later on, she passed the same idea to me! I, now a dental assistant, had a crazy fear of the dentist ! My studies are what allowed me to face my fears. As I learned, and eventually assisted, I discovered that there was nothing to be afraid of. The dentist isn’t there to hurt us, to the contrary! If our parents and grandparents had had access to such good dental care as we have today, a lot less of them would have dentures or missing teeth and all the problems that come with it, and none of them would have a phobia of the dentist!

It is also thanks to all this accumulated baggage that I was able to make my kids enjoy their visits to the dentist. By using my knowledge when I’m at work, I also allow young children not to develop the same fears as the ones I had when I was younger.

Reassuring our kids

Many concerns can be conveyed to children by their parents: anxiety towards the pain, anesthesia, noise and vibration of various instruments and the impressive number of instruments used by the dentist. Rest assured, dentists today use very simple terms to explain to children what these instruments are used for and describe what they are doing  in their mouths. They speak with a calm and reassuring voice, don’t rush fearful children and sometimes tell them stories to entertain them. Dental assistants and hygienists are also very good at explaining everything that’s happening during session.

Some people are so afraid of the dentist because of bad memories that they have to be sedated during the entire treatment. These are of course extreme cases, but we don’t want our children to come to that.

It’s important to let the staff explain to your child how the visit will go.,Dentists use kid-friendly words to talk to children about what they’re about to do. It wouldn’t be helpful at all if you told your kids about your bad experiences at the dentist; it would only stress them out and make the dentist’s job that much more complicated because he’d have to deal with a scared patient. And in some cases, the child could even refuse to get on the dentist’s chair!

Some tips to make the experience enjoyable
  • For younger kids, bringing their favourite doll or teddy bear is an excellent idea. Not being “alone” will comfort them
  • Be enthusiastic about the dentist’s apointment and avoid giving too much information about what will happen.
  • Tell your child how lucky he is to visit the dentist : « Wow, my big boy will be on the dentist’s chair, you’re so lucky ! », or « You’ll see, the dentist will use a bright light to look in your mouth !”
  • Older children and teens will probably like to listen to their favourite music during the treatment.
  • For the first visit, use the fact that kids like to imitate adults. You can thus book your own appointment just before his, allowing him to see how it works and the staff to explain to him what’s going to happen when it’s his turn.

You now have all the tools you need to to alleviate your children’s anxiety towards their visit to the dentist. Remember to stay calm at all times and don’t get angry or be disappointed by your child’s behaviour.

Despite all these tricks and tips, your child might still have a very real fear of the dentist and panic during his appointment. Don’t take his fears lightly because he could lose his confidence in you. Take the time to talk to your dentist, who will be able to advise you and even refer you to a children’ specialist.

Julie Mainella
Dental Assistant

Julie Mainella is passionate about all aspects of dentistry. Mom of two adorable girls, she made them understand the importance of dental health at an early age. She has worked with children in a dental practice and has a wealth of tips and tricks to make children like brushing their teeth and enjoy their visits to the dentist!

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