Dental Anxiety In Children:
What Parents Need to Know

kid with dentist thumbs up

Dental anxiety is a common problem, especially among children about to have their first dental visit.

As a parent, you may wonder how this started among your kids. What causes this anxiety, and why are they so afraid that they freak out whenever they see a dentist?

You may not be aware, but even the simplest unreliable remark that dentists are scary affects your children. The same happens to children who have parents with dental fear.

That is why you must carry out adequate dental education with your child beginning at an early age. 

So, beat dental anxiety among your children before it turns too late. It’s a lot easier than you think. 

Studies prove that overcoming these emotional and psychological stress is just as easy and effective with the right approach.

What is Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety arises from the anticipation that dental procedures are painful, scary, and traumatic. This anxiety is usually associated with the fear of dentists and all the dental setting. That is why dental anxiety is also called dental fear and dentophobia, although there are certain degrees of differences among these terms. 

It is estimated that dental anxiety has affected 50 to 80% of adults in the United States. A study even recorded how dental anxiety reached a 9% prevalence rate among children in America. 

The rate is so dynamic that a significant percentage of children increases yearly to this population before they become adults. Hence, the need to educate children at an early age is vital.

You can identify a child who has mild to severe dental anxiety once he or she exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Shows signs of stress and discomfort
  • Suffers from unusual palpitation due to nervousness
  • Becomes extra-emotional and afraid
  • Throws tantrums
  • Becomes psychosomatically sick

Although dental fear is classified as an anxiety disorder, this may be corrected easily. This case may also run in the family due to several external factors, including parental dental fear, yet this remains uninheritable. It only happens in a family because of the stigma that dental treatments are something that you must feel dreadful about. And this kind of conditioning passes on and on to the next generations.

child playing in clinic
Speak with a Pediatric Dentist Now


Reasons Why Children Freak Out at the Dentist

Being a little nervous is normal, but for a child to freak out at the dentist is something you must examine and fully understand. Why would children freak out whenever faced with a dentist? Here’s the list.

Induced Effect of Parental Dental Fear

Parental dental fear is said to be contributing to this growing stigma. As one report says, there is a strong correlation between parental and pediatric dental fear. A recent study has also suggested that parents with high dental anxiety negatively affect their child’s perception of dental treatments.

Lack of Proper Guidance and Education

Children can be easily misled by wrong, confusing, and exaggerated information. A story about a dental incident – which may not be true- could affect how they perceive dental treatments. Hence, they often fall into the trap of negative perception regarding dental visits.

Fear of the Unknown

When a child is not educated on oral health, speculations negatively impact the child’s behavior. Usually, fearing the unknown leads to a total degree of discomfort. 

Failed Dental Treatment

Experiencing traumatic pain because of a failed dental treatment also contributes to dental anxiety among children.

Unused to Seeing a Dentist Regularly

Imagine a child who hasn’t experienced meeting a dentist for a visit and consultation. For sure, seeing a dentist for the very first time may cause extreme anxiety and panic attacks.  

Hence, children must be given proper dental education at an early age. As a study shows, regular dental visits starting the infant’s teething year serve as preventive measures against dental fear. This progressive familiarization with dental care could save a child from the threats of dental anxiety.

kids smiling - tooth extraction

Dealing Dental Anxiety in Children: Importance of First Dental Visit

A report proves that early and regular pediatric consultation leads to significant positive results in avoiding dental anxiety, fear, and phobia. Therefore, the age and frequency of dental visits are crucial considerations because 44.4% of children’s dental fears are predicted to arise from these grounds. 

Parents are encouraged to take their children to the dentist as early as the first tooth eruption. That is before the first birthday of your child - a regular dental visit has to start. This stage would facilitate a trust-building relationship between your dentist and the child. It would also cater to your child’s dental education and early promotion of good oral hygiene. 

Regular visits to a dentist at an early age naturally prevent a child from developing an unwanted dental condition and dental anxiety. It saves them from the possibility of undergoing invasive dental procedures in the future and experiencing pain in any form. In this case, a positive approach toward dental care is seen and revitalized.

Practical Tips to Help Your Child Manage Dentophobia

Now that you know the reasons behind dental anxiety and the importance of your child’s early visit to a dentist, it is equally important to know a few tips on how you can help a child who is already suffering from dentophobia. Here are a few points to remember:

Know why the child is afraid of the dentist

First, it is crucial to determine why a child freaks out upon seeing a dentist. As mentioned, 

it could be a result of a negative perception of dental treatments, a previous experience of pain due to a failed dental procedure, or some other associated factors. 

Set a Good Example

Telling a child your concrete experience of dental procedures and the positive results it gave you can help them manage their stress. Setting a good example would serve as a reminder that dental treatments aren’t traumatic at all.

Choose the Right Dentist

We always wanted the best for our children. Choosing the right dentist is also key to ensuring that your child’s dental treatment is done with a professional’s proper guidance and care.

Advice Your dentist that your Child is Anxious

Informing your dentist about your child’s anxiety will prompt him to do everything possible to put them at ease. Usually, the dentist explains every procedure politely and ensures a pain-free treatment. Distractions, such as music, are also made use of.

Use Positive Reinforcement 

A small token, such as stickers or toys to congratulate a successful dental treatment, leads to courage and motivation. It is also effective in helping a child manage his dental fears.

Consult the Best Pediatric Dentist in Culver City

Dental anxiety in children can lead to reluctance and avoidance of dental care. Therefore, parents and dental professionals need to work together to address dental anxiety in children to prevent future dental problems. 

As discussed, you can do this through communication, education, positive reinforcement, and even relaxation techniques such as sedation dentistry. Remember also that preventative measures such as regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices can help to reduce the likelihood of dental anxiety developing in children. 

So, never risk your child’s oral health due to the unnecessary fear of dental treatment. Instead, beat every possibility that leads to dental anxiety before it turns too late. 

Choose the right pediatric dentist. If you're looking for the most trusted clinic in Culver City, California, set an appointment with Culver City Dentist United Dental Care. Experience a smooth and comfortable dental visit with our trained dental professionals.


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