Tips for Managing Your Child’s Dental Anxiety

Visiting the dentist feels like a routine experience for most, but for your young ones, it can be harrowing. Pediatric dentistry is an important part of their developing lives to take care of their oral hygiene. But for some children, going to the dentist can involve tears and anxiety. 

As a parent, you never want to see your children suffer. It might seem easy to delay that trip. However, putting off dental care can be detrimental to their health. 

Here are some tips to soothe their anxiety, help them overcome their fear, and turn their dental trip into a positive one.



Understanding Dental Anxiety in Children

Anxiety is a completely normal reaction. It’s the body’s way of trying to protect itself from a potential threat – whether the situation causing the anxiety is a real threat or not. But try to see it from their perspective. There are any number of reasons that going to the dentist could cause your child anxiety. 

If your child has never been to the dentist before they don’t know what to expect. For anyone – young or old – fear of the unknown is a common anxiety. They could be afraid that it will cause them pain. Or their anxiety could be related to the dentist’s equipment because they don’t know what it does.

Sometimes, children may even pick up this behavior from their caregivers. If a certain situation leads to a parent or caregiver feeling anxious, it may make your child anxious in a similar way.

When your child is feeling anxious, it can show up in the form of crying, tantrums or being clingy toward you as a way of seeking safety.

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience for your child. We’ve outlined the most common way that you can help your child. That way, their trip to the dentist can be an overall positive experience for them and a sigh of relief for you.

Strategies for Preventing Dental Anxiety

Early and positive dental experiences

When it comes to visiting the dentist, we say the earlier the better. Your child can start coming to see the dentist around one year of age for cleanings and preventative care. You can even schedule a practice visit so that your child can get familiar with the staff and the office itself. We’re always happy to help!

Always positively frame the dentist. These are just a few examples, but associating the dental office with positivity will help your little one do the same. 

“The dentist is there to help and keep you healthy.” 

“They keep your smile bright and amazing.” 

“Everyone gets to go to the dentist – even me!” 

Open Communication

Always keep an open path of communication to soothe your child’s anxiety about the dentist. After all, some anxieties can stem from a lack of information. Be honest with your child in a way that is age-appropriate for them and emphasize the importance of dental hygiene and healthy teeth. Explain what to expect during their visit and address any concerns your child might have honestly and reassuringly. 

Positive Reinforcement

For a job well done, it’s important to reward your child for their courage and cooperation. Your dentist is likely to give them a toothbrush and toothpaste for their visit. They may even give them a sticker. But make sure to do something for them as well.

You can reward them with a small treat or some activity that they like. For example, you can visit a nearby park afterward or make their favorite dinner as a reward.

But also emphasize the positive aspects of the dentist, like their clean teeth or their healthy smile.



Coping Mechanisms for Dental Anxiety

Relaxation Techniques

Teach your child deep breathing exercises or simple mindfulness practices to manage anxiety. We are seeing more evidence of how well mindfulness exercises work in soothing anxiety. The most common breathing technique is box breathing. You take a breath, hold it for four seconds, then exhale and hold for four seconds before breathing in again.

You can also teach them visualization techniques. Have them imagine a safe place like their home or their room. Or even have them focus on what you’ll be doing when you’re done with your appointment if you have something fun planned.

Distraction Techniques

Let your child bring their favorite stuffed animal with them. Depending on the dentist’s office, there may already be shows there for them to watch during their time there. 

But if you know your child is going to be nervous beforehand, let them listen to music or watch their favorite show. 

Positive Reinforcement During the Visit

During the appointment, reinforce that you’re there for your child. Acknowledge their bravery and encourage them throughout the appointment. Let them know you’re not going anywhere and you’re right there if they need them.

And when their appointment is over, celebrate the win with their favorite activity or treat.

Addressing Specific Fears

A big fear that children and adults alike can have is when it comes to needles and pain. This is a common anxiety – we understand syringes can be scary! But the important thing is to emphasize that your child’s dentist doesn’t want them in pain. 

Assure them that their tools and techniques are used to minimize any discomfort that they have. And above all, their comfort is the most important thing. Let your child know that their dentist is doing what they can to keep them healthy. And everything possible to ensure that they’re not in pain at all during their visit.


While going to the dentist can be a stressful experience for anyone, it doesn’t have to be! When it comes to your little one, positive reinforcement and your guidance can go a long way. Emphasize the importance of taking care of their teeth and praise them for their courage.

When choosing a dentist, consider a pediatric dentist who has experience treating children. They’re used to dental anxieties in children and have many techniques to calm your child down.

If your child has severe anxiety, we encourage you to seek professional help from a dentist or a therapist.

Overall, be patient and understanding. Overcoming anxiety takes time and practice. But with your help, they’re sure to develop a more positive attitude for their dental visits.


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Your Child’s Happy Smile Starts Here: Pediatric Dentistry Experts!

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