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How to Manage Dental Anxiety in Children

How to Manage Dental Anxiety in Children

Worried that your child fears going to the dentist? Learn how to make dental visits a positive experience for your child with the comprehensive guide at Dentists Connect. This manual provides practical tips for making your kid feel safe and at ease while getting dental care.

Understand Your Child’s Anxiety

No two children experience anxiety the same way, so it’s important to take the time and get to know your child and how they deal with their anxiety. Talk to them about what worries them and why they are scared of going to the dentist. Be sure that they aren’t worrying unduly; if there is something that is really on their mind it will be helpful in figuring out how best to manage it.

Spend time with your child learning about what helps calm them down, it could be anything from drawing or playing a game, talking about a favorite subject, or watching a funny video. Being armed with this knowledge can help you determine when might be a good time for the visit, as well as which techniques you can use before and during the appointment.

Additionally, if you feel comfortable with it, have regular conversations throughout their lives about dental health habits and overall oral care. This can help make dental visits less daunting by taking away some of the fear of not knowing what will happen at the chair – preparing children in this way can help build confidence in any future encounter they may have at any dental practice!

Talk About Dental Visits

One of the best ways to help children manage dental anxiety is to talk openly and honestly about their upcoming dental visit. Explain in a straightforward manner why they need to go and what will be happening while they are there. Reassure your child that most people need to go to the dentist, and even reassure them that it can be fun!

Encourage your child to ask questions so that you can provide accurate, age-appropriate information about their visit. By answering their questions in a factual way and avoiding humiliation or judgment, you will help them develop healthy dental care habits from an early age.

Set Up a Positive Environment

Creating a positive environment for dental care is one of the best ways to manage anxiety in children. Put thought into making them feel comfortable and relaxed in the dentist’s office. Talk with them beforehand about the process, explain why it’s important, and answer any questions they have. Respect their individual needs regarding space, boundaries, and guidance.

Before an appointment is made, be sure to ask questions about a dentist’s experience with children and make sure their waiting room is kid friendly. If a child’s anxiety still persists after pre-appointment preparations, some dentists may suggest that they use the “tell-show-do” method which effectively allows the child to get acclimated to the process at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed.

Distract From Fearful Thoughts

It’s not uncommon for children to feel anxious or even scared when it’s time for a dental appointment. But by distracting them with positive, calming thoughts, you can help them deal with their fears as they wait in the office. Here are some tips on how to manage dental anxiety in children:

  • Encourage your child to focus on something enjoyable instead of worrying about the visit. Talk about any fun activities the two of you will be doing afterward or bring a book or electronic device they can focus on until it’s time for their appointment. It’s also important that they understand the importance of routine care and that everyone goes to the dentist; talking about these topics can help ease their anxiety.
  • When it’s time for their appointment, let your child know what to expect. If you provide clear expectations ahead of time, it may help them feel more prepared and reduce some of their fears and worries. Explain what the dentist will do during the visit and where he or she will touch them; this type of explanation lessens uncertainty and helps create feelings of safety during an uncomfortable experience.

Provide Reinforcement and Rewards

Managing dental anxiety in children can require a combination of approaches, but providing rewards for good behavior during dental appointments is one of the most effective. Reinforcement and rewards should be designed to positively reward the child for being brave and managing their anxiety before, during, and after their appointment.

For younger children, tangible items such as stickers can be used to reward good behavior or “brave” faces during dental visits. Older children may benefit from verbal reinforcement such as praising the child for doing a “good job,” or offering to provide them with something special after a successful dental appointment.

Get to Know the Dentist and Team

Familiarizing your child with the dentist, the dental office, and the dental staff is a great way to reduce stress and manage dental anxiety in children. One of the best strategies is to allow your child to meet the dentist and team prior to their actual appointment. Allowing them to explore their dentist’s office, view equipment and talk openly about their experience can help them feel more at ease.

Dental experts recommend that a parent or guardian bring his or her child for a “happy visit” before age one in order for them to get acquainted with the office and prevent future fears. These “happy visits” should be low-key, taking place without any major examinations so that children won’t be scared by fake teeth in jars or drills whirring in plastic gloves.

In addition, there are resources for parents to access so they can better communicate with their children about going to the dentist. Educational books, videos, and websites can better equip parents when discussing appointments with their little patients so that they are equipped with accurate information rather than stories they may have heard from friends or family members.

Explain What Will Happen During the Appointment

When preparing a child for a dental appointment, it is important to discuss the process in an honest, but reassuring way. Explain to them that a dentist is like their doctor – someone who helps keep their mouth healthy. Describe what will happen during the appointment such as being welcomed by the dentist and their team, having their teeth checked, brushing and flossing demonstrations, and ending with a high-five!

If necessary procedures such as x-rays or tooth fillings are required, use age-appropriate language to explain these processes in addition to ensuring your child’s understanding is confirmed prior to any treatment commencing.

Desensitize With Role Play Games

Role-play games can be an effective way to introduce and desensitize children to the dentist without the added stress of an actual office visit. Research has found that role-play games may be able to “teach children perceptions and familiarize them with dental characteristics in a more relaxed environment.”

Role-playing can provide a safe, positive experience that helps build trust with the dentist. You can give children the opportunity to explore their feelings while they role-play certain scenarios with you or another adult in a relaxed setting.

Play Relaxation Music or Videos

Many children can benefit from playing relaxation music or videos before their dental appointment. This can not only help them to reduce the level of dental anxiety they may be experiencing, but it can also help to distract them and promote calmness. Research has found that playing calming music or videos prior to dental care can significantly and successfully reduce the stress levels of children undergoing dental treatment.

There are many songs, albums, and playlists available online specifically designed for relaxation purposes, as well as several kid-friendly guided meditations that may also be of use. Additionally, some dental offices offer headphones attached to a tablet displaying relaxing films or shows during appointments which a child might find helpful in helping to manage their anxiety levels during the visit.

Consider Oral Sedation Options

Oral sedation is a type of sedative that is used to help children cope with dental anxiety and the associated fear or phobia of undergoing dental treatment. Oral sedation aids in relaxation and can reduce fear, anxiety, and stress by helping to decrease awareness during dental procedures. It also reduces a child’s ability to react negatively to sensations or stimuli associated with the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What techniques can I use to help my child manage dental anxiety?

There are many techniques you can use to help your child manage dental anxiety. For example, you can give your child a positive, calming message before and during the appointment. If your child is old enough, you can explain what the dentist will do and why it is important. You can also practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or muscle relaxation. Finally, you can use distractions such as books, music, or videos to help your child stay calm.

What can I do to create a positive dental experience for my child?

It is important to create a positive dental experience for your child. You can start by using positive language and avoiding terms that might scare them. You can also make sure to explain the importance of dental care and the benefits it can bring. Finally, you can reward your child for their bravery and willingness to visit the dentist.

Are there any strategies that can help my child with dental anxiety?

Yes, there are several strategies that can help your child manage dental anxiety. For example, you can talk to your child ahead of time and explain what to expect at the dentist. You can also practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or muscle relaxation. Finally, you can use distractions such as books, music, or videos to help your child stay calm.


Setting up a good foundation for oral health and a positive experience when visiting the dentist is essential in managing dental anxiety in children. Parents can start by developing a trusting relationship with their child’s dentist and providing positive encouragement as early as possible.

It is also important to remember that even adults sometimes feel anxious when it comes to dental visits; be patient and understanding with your child during their dental appointments, as it will help to build trust and develop the best outcome for both your child and their dentist.

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