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What to do if your child is afraid of the dentist

What to do if your child is afraid of the dentist

afraid of the dentist

Have a little one who is afraid of the dentist? Dr. Robin Mak, DDS, of, has tips!

You’ve talked about going to the dentist, you’ve let your child know that dentist are important for good healthy teeth, and you’ve even explained how the visit might go. Yet, in the dentist’s chair, your child is not cooperating and is afraid.

Tips to Help Kids Who Are Afraid of the Dentist

Platime Pediatric

I’ve seen many, many kids, ranging in age from two months to teenagers, and here are some tips for helping your child get over being afraid or uncooperative at the dentist:

  1. Remain calm. Outwardly at least. If your child sees that you are upset, they will feed on that. Although remaining calm may not result in them immediately calming down, getting upset will almost certainly escalate their emotions.
  2. Accept that their feelings are valid. Even some adults are afraid of the dentist. It’s just that we are more able to rationalize ourselves through it.  All behaviour has a reason: your child might find the chair weird, the masks a bit scary and, even though modern dentistry involves very little pain and discomfort, the amount of discomfort they have experienced at the dentist may still seem too much.
  3. Suggest how they can cope. Remind them that discomfort will pass quickly and that they then can then relax and watch the TV if there is one, or check out the dentist’s artwork.  Calmly remind them that a little treatment now can prevent a big treatment later, and also that everyone goes to the dentist and it is what you are expecting of them as a member of a healthy family.
  4. Reward them afterwards. Remind them of the treats that come after a dental visit. Most kids love the little toy they get at the end of a visit, and some enjoy just receiving a new floss, mini toothpaste, or toothbrush.  Maybe you can do nice for them after the visit. Do they like to pop into the coffee shop for steamed milk? Or maybe a new little toy or book or an activity, depending on what they like.
  5. Try visiting a dentist that caters to children. Maybe they really don’t like the particular dentist, or office or assistant they saw first. Often going to a dental office that sees many kids can be worthwhile. Staff are usually very patient, gentle, and have a lot of experience with various emotional situations for parents and kids.  All this experience can go a long way in making the visit more pleasant.
  6. Try conscious sedation or general anesthetic. Conscious sedation is good if your child is extremely afraid of the dentist but needs treatment in one area in one area of the mouth. Or, if the child is young and requires treatment in many ‘quadrants’ of the mouth (cavities in the top right, bottom right and bottom left), you may be able to take your child to dental surgery center where they are completely put under. A small child may not be able to tolerate fillings in more than three spots in one appointment.

I hope these ideas will help you and your child move towards enjoying trips to the dentist. You are doing your child a big favour by investing in their oral care and visiting the dentist every six months. Without regular visits, cavities can grow large very quickly. So, soldier on!  Trips to the dentist are now part of your lives together.

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Dr. Robin Mak, DDS, is a family and children’s dentist in Kitsilano in Vancouver, BC. Robin graduated from UBC Dentistry in 2006. She volunteers at local daycares, such as West Side Family Place, where she provides free screening for cavities and education to parents about their child’s oral health care. In addition, daycares and individual have been invited to come into the office for a tour so that the kids can see what dental visits consist of. To set up a visit, contact the office. You can find her at her office at 207/209-2223 West Broadway, by phone at 604-738-1816, or on the web at You can also connect on Facebook, Twitter  and Google+.

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