The Dentist: Boogeyman or Friend?

Many kids would rather face the boogeyman or the monster under the bed than take on the scary person with the drill known as their family dentist.

For some, dental phobia is a terrifying, paralyzing fear of dentistry or receiving dental care. And no one is more spooked than the thought of seeing a dentist than kids.

It is perfectly normal for children to be fearful of dentists. As in many childhood firsts, it is the fear of the unknown. Small children often think going to the dentist will hurt, because they don’t know what to expect. And any outside influences that stress the pain associated with visiting the dentist can only compound kids’ fears of seeing someone who is actually their best friend in fighting cavities and taking care of their teeth.

Calming Force

For parents, calming their children’s fears can go a long way to easing and eliminating kids’ fear of seeing their dentist. Remember, we are our children’s most influential role models. Children will likely pick up any anxiety we show when visiting the dentist. A study published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry found that if one family member was anxious amount dental visits, that fear was often passed onto other members.

The best thing parents can do for their children, especially young kids visiting the dentist for the first time, is demystify the experience.

Parents can limit their children’s fear of the dentist by avoiding fearsome words like “hurt” and “painful” when discussing the dentist and answering any questions kids have with simple, to-the-point answers. Parents should avoid telling kids about any unpleasant or “nightmare” experiences they’ve had with their dentists.

“Sometimes parents project their own feelings about going to the dentist onto their children,” Dr. Steven G. Goldberg, inventor of the DentalVibe Injection Comfort System, told

Remember, dentists are trained to describe things to kids in a non-threatening way and easy-to-understand language, and can best explain the reasons for cavities and best ways kids can avoid them. For especially young children, most dentists are great about allowing parents to accompany their children into the exam room for their first dental exam.

Parents should also avoid promising rewards like candy or pizza for going to the dentist. This can have adverse effects on kids’ willingness to visit the dentist.

A powerful way parents can ease their children’s fears of the dentist is by bringing their kids with them the next time they visit the dentist. Having a parent smile while they visit the dentist is one of the best ways to assure kids that a visit to the dentist is painless. Parents can further ease their children’s anxiety about visiting the dentist themselves by mentioning how great their teeth feel after each dentist visit.

But the best way parents can be great dental care role models for their kids is by practicing great oral hygiene habits with them: Eating healthy and brushing, and flossing teeth their teeth together daily with their children.

Read Up on the Cavity Fighters!

Kids love superheroes, and letting them know that dentists are superheroes of fighting cavities and keeping their mouths and teeth safe from harmful cavities, viruses and diseases is a great, fun way to ket them known that their family dentist is their friend.

Reading is one of kids’ most enjoyable and educational activities. And reading books about dentists, and what they do, can reinforce to kids that going to the dentist isn’t scary at all. Some funny books that can ease kids’ dentist fears include Behold! No Cavities!: A Visit to the Dentist (SpongeBob Squarepants) by Nickelodeon, and Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit To The Dentist (Dora the Explorer) by Christine Ricci.

Start Kids Brushing From First Teeth

Before kids turn 1, dentists recommend parents clean their gums with a baby toothbrush, finger cot or wet cloth after each feeding. Dr. Bill Dorfman, a cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills, Calif., says introducing good oral hygiene at an early age prepares kids for examinations and cleanings later on.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children visit the dentist when their first tooth erupts. Early visits to a pediatric dentistry get kids used to the dentist and can prevent dental problems and dentist anxiety down the road. Plus, pediatric dentists have specialized training with kids, use smaller instruments, and usually have kid-friendly offices with bright colors, videos and toys.

The very thought of someone looking at their teeth can be terrifying to kids, but with smart early dentist education, parents can teach their kids that their dentist is a great friend helping them keep their teeth happy, healthy and cavity free. And there’s nothing scary about having clean, healthy teeth!

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