Kids Fear of Dentist

Dental Anxiety/Fear

Is Your Child Scared of Dentist?

Feeling anxious or scared is most people’s first reaction to unknown new experiences or entering a new environment. The feeling is more common among children than adults. So, it’s not unusual to see a child afraid or nervous in a dental office who is unwilling to see the dentist.

Since oral health is a significant aspect of kids’ overall health, dental visits cannot be overlooked. Dental appointments are an integral part of good oral health for children and adults, and putting them off can have negative consequences.

But how can parents handle their child’s fear of going to the dentist? Should they postpone the dentist appointment until the child’s anxiety go away?

What Happens If Parents Delay Their Kids’ Dental Appointment?

Kids Early Dental Visits= Healthy Teeth and a Healthy Smile

Most children begin to get their first tooth at around six months of age and will typically have all their twenty baby teeth or primary teeth by the time they are three years old.

Your baby’s teeth are susceptible to decay from the very beginning, which is why practising proper oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits from a young age are essential for your kids’.

If your child loses their primary teeth prematurely due to poor oral hygiene and skipping dental visits, chances are they face many dental problems, including orthodontic issues, in the future.

Unfortunately, many parents prefer to forget about this necessary visit to the dentist due to their kids’ dental fear, which is a wrong decision and can put their child’s oral health at risk.

How to Deal with a Child Afraid of Going to the Dentist

Dental Anxiety and Fear in Pediatric Dentistry

Dental anxiety and dental phobia can both prevent children or young patients from receiving dental care and need to be addressed as soon as possible and at a young age.

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are two somewhat different concepts. We have used them interchangeably here and have suggested ways to help your child overcome their dental fears and improve their dental health.

Here are Dr Elli’s suggested ways you can follow to make your child stay calm and less scared of an upcoming visit with a dentist.

Schedule the First Dental Visit at a Young Age

Dental professionals advise parents to arrange their kids’ first dental visit before they get their first birthday to avoid Early Childhood Caries, which is tooth decay in young children.

An early first visit is especially beneficial for a child scared of the dentists as they begin to be accustomed to the dentist’s office, the paediatric dentist, the staff, and dental procedures early in life.

When parents arrange the first visit at a younger age and schedule regular visits afterwards, building rapport and trust with the dentist and the dental staff will also be easier and sooner for the child.

Talk to Your Child

Children may feel comfortable and less scared if they know what they can expect during their dental appointment. Some children are more likely to make a mess if they haven’t been familiarised or prepared before visiting dentists.

Use simple and easy-to-understand words to explain what will happen during the visit and why you are taking them to the dentist, but do not talk about too many details.

Do not share your emotions about any painful dental treatment or invasive procedures you might have had in the past.

Be careful not to talk about your negative experiences; explain the reason for the appointment and how it can help them have beautiful, healthy teeth.

Be Honest

Being honest with your children and telling them what they can expect from visiting a paediatric dentist is essential.

Do not tell them, “it will take just a few seconds”! If it takes several minutes, then your child may panic in the dental chair and make a mess.

Read a Story Together

There are some interesting books about going to the dentist. Reading these books for young children and showing them some illustrations can prepare them for their first visit.

Arrange a Morning Appointment

Paediatric dentists recommend parents schedule morning dental appointments for their children as most children are fresher and more energetic in the morning.

Kids tend to cooperate better when well-rested and not sleepy or hungry.

Be Careful About Your Wording

Do not mention “pain”, “hurt”, “needles”, “shot”, or any words that may increase your child’s fears or anxiety.

You can ask paediatric dentists to tell you their preferable substitutions for these scary words!

This article may help you on the matter.

Do Not Show Your Fear or Anxiety

Child anxiety sometimes occurs because they observe you and notice you as parents are nervous.

Your child can easily notice your anxiety, affecting how they feel.

Instead, stay calm, act normal, and maintain a positive attitude so that your child can overcome their fear.

Be Patient

Children who feel anxious may ask many questions about their upcoming visit.

You do not need to talk about details or name the dental instruments, as it will increase their fears; just answer their questions wisely and patiently.

In the end, please be patient and do not give up. If your child needs dental care

Children are different, and you may need to do various tricks to get your child to see their dentist and stay calm during the visit.

Do Not Show Your Fear or Anxiety

Child anxiety sometimes occurs because they observe you and notice you as parents are nervous.

Your child can easily notice your anxiety, affecting how they feel.

Instead, stay calm, act normal, and maintain a positive attitude so that your child can overcome their fear.

Take on the role of the dentist

You and your child can play some role modelling games.

You can play the role of the dentist and ask your child to sit on a chair and play the role of a patient.

Ask them to open their mouth so that you can count their teeth. You can pick up a toothbrush and pretend you are brushing your child’s teeth.

Now change your place and ask them to take on the dentist’s role. You can also do this game with a stuffed animal.

Choose a Pediatric Dentist

Your child is more likely to feel comfortable if you arrange an appointment with a pediatric dentist.

Paediatric dentists are trained to treat children and promote their oral health.

A paediatric dentist also has information about child development and psychology; therefore, they know how to communicate with young patients to encourage good behaviour and make the visit a positive experience.

Paediatric dentists know how and when to use positive reinforcement and compliment the patient on their bravery to lessen their fear and build trust.


By positive reinforcement, we do not mean bribery or promising rewards! It only means praising them for cooperating and being brave.

Bribing your child to encourage good behaviour in the dentist’s office may make them more apprehensive about the whole process.

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Fear/Dental Anxiety in Children

  • Children who feel anxious about an upcoming visit with a dentist may show signs of irritability or restlessness.
  • Dental fear can cause children to cry sometimes without apparent reasons.
  • Fear of dentists can also cause children to misbehave and act uncooperatively or aggressively.
  • If your child is afraid of the dentist, you may see them sweating, shaking, or trembling.
  • Racing heartbeat or low blood pressure may also be seen in patients who fear the dentist.
  • Anxious children about a dental visit may have difficulty sleeping the night before the appointment.

Dental Phobia

If dental anxiety lingers and is not dealt with early in life, it can turn into a dental phobia, which is less common but more serious than anxiety.

Causes of Dental Fear and Dental Anxiety in Pediatric Dentistry

The child’s anxiety or fears can elevate in the dental setting, for instance, in the waiting room or the dental chair, probably because of seeing various dental instruments or hearing noises that do not appeal to them.

Patients anxious about a dental visit may have had a past traumatic treatment.

The anxious child may have observed their parents’ fear and anxiety and become nervous.

The anticipation of pain can also make a child scared of the dentist.

Some children are scared of the dentist because of the fear of losing control and a lack of trust.

The fear of the unknown can add to the child’s fear of the dentist. Most of the time, because the child does not know what to expect from the visit can cause them to be scared or anxious.

How About Sedation Dentistry

Laughing Gas

In some cases, dentists decide to use sedation to make the child calm and less stressed during the treatment or check-up.

Laughing gas, also called happy gas, is the safest kind of sedation used in paediatric dentistry. Happy gas will make the child relaxed and less scared during the treatment.

Some parents are worried about the side effects of happy gas or whether the gas causes their child to fall asleep. Do not worry because happy gas will not put your child to sleep.

The child will inhale the gas through a mask to feel calm, but they will be awake and responsive throughout the entire procedure.

Looking for an Experienced Pediatric Dentist in Brisbane?

Dr Ellie Nadian is a top dental specialist for children in Brisbane who is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Dentistry, the Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, and the Australian Dental Association.