Dentist - Handling fear in children

DrSonali Bassi
3 to 7 years

Created by Dr.Sonali Bassi
Updated on Sep 24, 2012

Dentist Handling fear in children

I am dentist by Profession but I know for a fact that dental fear exists in all of us from childhood. There are a lot of studies that indicate that the fear originated from the temperament of the doctor. If for example the doctor has an impersonal and uncaring attitude or seems to be disinterested and therefore distant then the doctor will invoke a feeling of fear even if there are no painful memories attached to the doctor.


On the other hand despite having painful experiences some children might not have the fear of going to the dentist simply because the dentist that they went to was warm and caring. Dental fear in a child may also develop by association; for example, if the child had a traumatic experience with a doctor or a hospital then he/she might develop a fear of white coats and antiseptic smells. 


How can we help as Parents: 

1.Time your child’s first visit to the dentist: According to the Academy of General Dentistry, it is suggested that a child's first introduction to the dentist should occur before their first birthday or six months after his/her first tooth erupts.

2.Be a great role model: A parent plays a very important part in the initiation of the child to the dentist as a role model. Often if the parent is nervous/apprehensive about visiting the dentist this nervousness will transmit to the children.

3.Don’t make a big deal of it: Parents can help from the outset, encouraging their children to view a visit to the dentist as a healthy positive activity.

4.Pre Plan the visits: Regular dental check up should be encouraged as a normal activity right from the start.

Follow these simple suggestions, which will help prepare you and your child for the best possible experience with the dentist.

1.Try and find your child a dentist who is sensitive, caring but mostly patient with the child.

2.Parents should talk encouragingly and positively about the visit using non-threatening vocabulary.

3.Discourage promising rewards for going to the dentist.

4.Discourage tantrums and unreasonable demands, but if the child wants to carry his favorite toy for comfort, let him carry it.

5.Try not to use alarming words like shots, painful and hurt.

6.In some cases the dentist might like to use sedation to help child relax and be more comfortable. The two most common types are oral sedation and nitrous oxide commonly known as laughing gas. Explain to the child why that is being done and reassure him /her.

7.The parent should only be a casual observer and only participate in conversation when asked. Remember your child can only listen to one person at a time. 


How can the doctor help?

A best way to deal in all cases whether child or adult is to use the ' show, tell and do’ technique.

When the child sits on the chair, the dentist can hold the hand of the patient to reassure him or her. Fear of the unknown is there amongst all of us, so showing and explaining the patient what you will be doing before taking them by surprise is always better and believe me, it works most of the time .


Our children are very intelligent and we should not underestimate that logic will definitely prevail most of the time.


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| Oct 03, 2013

Nice article. I was concerned about the fear my son has developed about dentist. He says I hate to go to dentist. This articles provides nice tips to handle that.

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| Oct 02, 2013

There is no harm doing the procedure under conscious sedation with a good pedodontist. the child will be very comfortable and the treatment can be performed much better as child would be very co operative. In case you still opt for the normal way, I am sure you must already be aware of the restriction of medication because of asthma. otherwise there are no precautions as such.

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| Oct 02, 2013

Hi Meenakshi,

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| Oct 02, 2013

Thanks Dr Sonali... I have a pending root-canal for my 3 year old Asthmatic Daughter. Can you please tell me what precautions I need to take before and during the dental treatment. I do not want to put her on conscious sedation (Nitrous Oxide). Am planning to get it done from a pedodontist in his private clinic. Is going to a proper hospital and getting it done safer????

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| Oct 01, 2013

Thanks dr Sonali. It's really helpful.

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| Oct 04, 2012

Thanks dr. sonali , this was really helpful specially coming from you - who deals with all kinds of children...

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| Sep 25, 2012

thanks..... i have to take my son to a dentist soon as he is developing extra tooth above the gum.... its out of place... i noticed it yesterday...

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| Sep 25, 2012

thanks aditi ,am glad you enjoyed reading it

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| Sep 24, 2012

What an illustrative article!! even as adults there is a lot we can learn from you Dr. Sonali :) thanks!

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