What to Do if Your Child Doesn’t Like Going to the Dentist: 4 Tips

It’s no surprise that a trip to the dentist may make your child a bit anxious. Many parents say their child is “terrified” of the dentist; others say their child won’t open their mouth at the dentist, and some even say their kids scream at the dentist! Surprisingly, these are all natural and predictable responses. Many children experience anxiety when it comes to meeting strangers, especially a stranger sticking tools in their mouth!

So, what can you do to help ease your child’s fear of their dental appointments? Here are 4 tips to help change your child’s mind about their experience at the dentist:

1. Have your child meet the dentist beforehand.

Arrange a meeting between your child and his or her dentist before the appointment to allow your child time to build a relationship with his or her dentist. As many children have anxiety when meeting a new person (especially an unknown doctor), an introductory meeting will help ease some anxiety before the appointment. Show your child that their dentist is a friendly person who wants to help their smile!

2. Create positive reinforcement for your child.

If your child isn’t a fan of their dental appointments, give him or her some positive reinforcement after their appointment. Help your child associate a positive reward with their trips to the dentist. Consider taking them to the playground after their appointment, or reward them with a movie. Show them that going to the dentist means something positive is coming! As your child grows older and realizes that the dentist isn’t so bad, these rewards won’t be necessary (of course).

3. Choose positive, less daunting words around your child.

The words you use around your child can strongly affect the way he or she perceives a situation. If you choose words like “pain”, “drill”, “shot”, or similarly intimidating words, your child is likely to feel scared of his or her dentist appointments. Tell your child that the dentist is simply counting your child’s teeth, not examining them. Your child’s dentist is cleaning the sugar off their teeth. Choose positive words that your child can relate to, so they can understand that this will be a positive, fun, pain-free experience.

4. Explain to your child why a dentist visit is important.

Possibly the most effective way to ease someone’s anxieties or fears, regardless of their age, is through education. Educate your child (using positive terms) on why they need to visit their dentist. Show them pictures of what a brilliant, healthy smile looks like with a full mouth of adult teeth. Show them their own teeth in the mirror and praise them for their cleaning habits. Help your child understand the consequences if they don’t visit their dentist or brush their teeth regularly!
Preparing your child before his or her visit to the dentist can make all the difference in how they feel when they arrive at their appointment. Choose positive, calming words when describing the dentist and dental appointments. Consider a mock appointment in your own home, using a toothbrush to count each tooth. This shows your child that a dental checkup isn’t complicated and won’t hurt!
Remember, it’s completely normal that your child has some apprehension and worry about their dentist appointment, so be understanding with them.
As Tampa’s preferred children’s dentist, we place significant emphasis on your child’s comfort throughout his or her appointment. We want you and your child to feel relaxed at every appointment. If you are seeking a dentist for kids in Tampa or Bradenton, we would love to meet you! We have 5 convenient locations to better accommodate you and your child.
Reach out to us today or request an appointment with us to see why Kids Smiles is the top child dentist in Tampa!