Fear and Terror:  Is your child afraid of the dentist?  Do they have nightmares the night before a dental appointment?  Or do they toss and turn and not sleep at all? Why does the dentist scare our kids?  Why do they scare us?  Researchers approximate that one in five people is afraid of going to the dentist?

Does the Dentist Strike Fear Into Our Hearts? Our Earlier Blogs on Fear Avoidance

You might recall an earlier Blog from Dr. King and Dentistry for Children.  This article focuses on how your pediatric dentist can help defeat the horrible monster, Fear.  There are also several ways parents can help avoid dental fear in children.

No Fear, Your Favorite Dentist is Here

Kids Feel No Fear When Their Eyes Lock on the Dentist with Trust

Before we discuss some of the tips to avoid dental fear in children, let’s look briefly at just how serious fear can be.

Clinical Trials on Fear

Dr. Tiril Willumsen is a dentist and a professor at the University of Oslo’s Section for Paediatric Dentistry and Behavioural Science. 

Dr. Willumsen says “Don’t worry, it’s (fear) is normal.”  After all, why wouldn’t we be afraid “to have a relative stranger poke around in our mouths?”  He added, “And even worse, use noisy tools that that vibrate and drill holes in our teeth?”

With this in mind, why wouldn’t our kids be afraid?  Dr. Willumsen also points out that fear is contagious.  For example, if one parent is fearful of dental treatment, chances are great that their child will also be afraid.

The Fear Equation: The More Fear You Have, the Worse Your Teeth Are

Dr. Willumsen’s studies on fear of the dentist concluded that fear can be devastating.  And it ranges from occasional painful visits to never going to the dentist. She added that embarrassment over the condition of teeth contributed to avoiding the dentist.

Case Example:  Fear and Dentistry Avoidance

An organization called Dental Fear Central provides an example of extreme avoidance.  A very upset and nervous patient confided the following story.  We’ll call her Sally.

Sally said, “I’m not really scared or phobic of a dentist as such.  And I suspect that there have been massive improvements to dentistry over the years.  But after a pretty painful experience, I haven’t been to the dentist for years.  25 years to be exact…”

“I’m scared…”  Sally added that no dentist had never seen someone who hadn’t been for a checkup in such a long time.  She was obviously very ashamed of the condition of her teeth.

Avoiding Apprehension and Fear in our Child:

Here are 5 Tips to help ease your child’s concern about dental appointments.

  1. Plan Early Dental Visits

Fear can be conquered and friendships developed in a dental office.

This Young Lady Learned to Love Her Dentist and Her Healthy Smile

Most Dentists agree that you need to begin your child’s dental care at a very early age.  This means approximately one year old.  There are many strange and unusual objects and equipment in a typical pediatric office.  The earlier that your child becomes familiar and learns to trust this unusual setting, the better.

This is also true of your dentist.  Unknown people are often frightening.  Getting to know or “to love your dentist” can be very important. 

  1. Finding  a Pediatric Dentist that You Trust

Discovering a pediatric dentist that you trust may be the most important single thing a parent can do.  The right dentist can make you and your child feel comfortable.  Look for the professional who, like our Dr. King, loves children.  He has “devoted his life to establishing a compassionate “Dental Home” for calm, comforting, and consistent dental care.”

Your ideal dentist might even make your child smile.  You may notice that he has equipment and toys that children would find appealing.  For instance, in Dr. King’s waiting room, you will find that the play area is a small sailing ship deck.  There are also computer games for children.  And most of all, when you meet Dr. Tr0y King, you will trust that he will be there for your child when he is needed.

It’s a good idea to check the dentist credentials.  Look to see what organizations he belongs to.  Dr. King, for example, is a member of the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology and the Florida Dental Society of Anesthesiology.

  1. Preparing  Your Child Before the Appointment

Fun with your muppet and learning about dentistry

Playing the Dentist with Examination Tools.

Don’t wait until the night before an appointment to begin preparing.  There are several things you can do to set the right mood.

A. Play dentist at home. Try to make it a fun game.  Play like you are the dentist.  Examine your child’s teeth.  Look at the gums and touch individual teeth.  Then let the child be the dentist.  Let the child examine your teeth.

You can make this game even more fun if you pick-up some toy dental tools.  They may be items like the little mirror on a stick or special glasses to look into the mouth.  Did you know there are numerous toys for this game at most of your discount stores?  (We think the merchandisers have caught on to the fact we recommend these toys.)

Likewise, you can also find dental storybooks available at bookstores and department stores.  Some of them have fun characters with who your child can identify.

B. Talk to your child about the appointment and the dentist examination. Keep the language and descriptions simple.

Use positive language, but don’t misrepresent the truth by telling them, “It is going to be fun.”  If you have doubts about how to explain a procedure, ask your Pediatric Dentist.

This is an important aspect of communication.  If they feel that you are not being truthful about the comfort level of seeing a dentist, they may not trust your advice in the future.

Do not let your own concerns or fears about dental work affect your communication.  As we pointed out earlier, many adults also fear dental procedures.  And these feelings are often contagious to children.

  1. Stay Calm Especially When Your Child Is Not

It’s normal for a child to resist having their mouth examined by a stranger.  It is normal for them to fuss.  They may whine, cry, scream or even throw a temper tantrum.

Try to keep them calm, but don’t panic.  An experienced pediatric dentist has seen it all before.  And he or she can help you restore calm and to keep your child comfortable during the procedures.

  1. Extreme Fear May Call for Other Measures

Occasionally, fears in children are so great that you may need to resort to other alternatives.  If necessary, your dentist may suggest the use of a calming drug.
Or in extreme cases, he might suggest therapy to help the child overcome dental anxiety.

Dental Exams are a part of Back-To-School.

Back-to-School Time is Also Time for Dental Exams

Thanks for reading our blog. We hope you find it helpful.  And here is one additional suggestion.

Back To School Means Back to the Dentist for a checkup.

It’s almost time for back-to-school.  And we know how busy you are getting ready.  You have many supplies to buy.  But don’t forget a new toothbrush.  And don’t forget to check your calendar for your child’s back-to-school checkup.  The school years K-12 go by very quickly.  High School graduation is just around the corner.

Someday you will also graduate from your pediatric dentist and move on to a general dentist.  We dedicate this blog to those who enter k-12 this fall and all the kids that graduated from dentistry for children with healthy teeth.  And they graduated with top honors in brushing and flossing.  Below is a poem that has become a popular verse at graduation.  Dentistry for Children helps children graduate from fear.

And Rudyard Kipling may have said it best:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too….

…….Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”