Fear of the Dentist? 6 Tips for Kids with Dental Anxiety

If your child has a fear of the dentist, or any level of dental anxiety, you know how difficult it can be to make it through a regular appointment.

In a study conducted by Delta Dental, 30% of children were afraid to visit the dentist. This statistic rose to 40% for children of parents who fear the dentist.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can calm your child before and during their next appointment. Plus, you can leverage the help of the dentist and assistants, experienced professionals who see patients with dental phobias on a regular basis.

If your child is scared to go to dentist appointments, try these tips.

As a parent, you may have been looking for ways to soothe your child’s dentophobia. (And maybe your own, too, as phobias can run in families!)

Whether your child had a bad experience at the dentist in the past or is just prone to anxiety in general, these tips will help make your next appointments much more manageable.

And who knows? With the right environment, kids with dental anxiety can even come to enjoy their visits to the dentist’s office.


Visit the dentist when you don’t have an appointment

Help your child get used to the dentist’s office by visiting just for fun! You can swing by, say hello to our staff, and let your child check out the aquariums and toys in the front lobby.

Every office is different, but at Orem Pediatric Dentistry, you don’t need an appointment to stop by. Just give us a call to double-check which day we have surgeries scheduled that week (when kids wake up after surgery, they can cry or cough in confusion and discomfort, so you’ll want to avoid coming on that day).


little girl mesmerized by fish in an aquarium at the dentist

Let our front desk staff know about your child’s fear of the dentist and we’d be happy to let your child pick out a sticker and a new toothbrush. Call ahead to see if our assistants have any time between patients to let your child brush George the Monkey’s teeth or play make-believe giving George a pretend x-ray.

You can make this an even more positive experience by over-emphasizing your child’s success. Any time they stay calm, whether it’s playing with toys or watching our fish, congratulate them and give them a big high-five.

After visiting the dentist’s office, go out for a special lunch or a visit to the park. This reinforces that the dentist can be a positive experience.



Play make-believe dentist games at home

Little girl smiling after getting Fast Braces

Get your child used to the idea of the dentist from the comfort of their safe space at home. There are plenty of dentist toys and costumes you can use to play make-believe. Let your child be the dentist. You can use this Playdough dentist set or this dentist toy kit to help your child understand the different tools they might see during their visit.

If you’re adventurous, you can even lay down and let your child brush your teeth for you. Role-playing like this helps your child learn about the dentist through discovery. Plus, you’ll be modeling the calm behavior you’ll want your child to exhibit at the dentist, which helps them learn that it’s not too scary.

Some kids learn better in a group setting. See if you can get some of their friends or cousins to come over and have a toothbrush party. Make it like a princess tea party where the kids are getting dolled up; or it could be a superhero party where the germs in the mouth are evil ninjas infiltrating the city.


Scared of dentist but need treatment? Bring your own comfort items and leverage our comfort menu to help your child feel more at ease.

If your child has a favorite stuffy or blanket that helps calm their anxiety, please feel free to bring it to your appointment. This includes items like weighted blankets and sensory aids that can distract or soothe your child.

Our comfort menu is a special feature we offer to help all children feel at ease during their appointments. On the menu, you’ll find a variety of items that can provide comfort to anxious children, including snacks, water, pillows, a blanket, headphones to watch a movie, and more!

Little girl smiling in the front lobby of the dentist's office, holding a stuffed animal cat


Visit an office with upbeat, fun dental assistants who will make your child smile

Girl smiling and mimicing the dental assistant

We’re big believers in getting a smile or laugh from every child who visits our office. The staff’s attitude can play a huge role in the experience your family has at the dentist. That’s why our assistants engage with every child on their level. Not only does this make patients feel more comfortable, but it helps them identify with the appointment.

Additionally, our assistants clean children’s teeth at a sink instead of in the exam chair. This is more familiar to kids and allows us to teach them proper brushing technique. Because we use a special compound toothpaste that removes plaque and tartar, we don’t need to use painful scraping techniques on your child’s teeth.


Use this psychology hack: speak in positives about the dentist

How you speak about the dentist has a huge impact on your child’s perception. If your child is scared to go to their next dentist appointment, by no means is it your fault. However, you have the power to positively influence their view of the dentist.

Playing make-believe is a great opportunity to talk about the dentist. You can stress the importance of oral health and dentist visits without scaring your child.

Two kids holding up signs in front of their faces. The signs are smiley faces drawn in crayon.

 Avoid words like “drill,” “cavity,” “pain,” “hurt,” or “sharp.” Use positive descriptions about teeth and oral hygiene, such as “shiny,” “clean,” “strong,” “happy teeth,” “healthy smile,” and yes, even “fun.”

Every morning and evening when your child brushes their teeth, you have an opportunity to speak this way about the dentist. Over time, these positive associations can change how your child views the dentist.

Additionally, when you visit the dentist with your child, it’s important to remain calm and model the behavior you expect from your child.

“It’s important that parents remain relaxed and calm to make the visit as comfortable as possible,” says Dr. R Bruce Howell of Orem Pediatric Dentistry. “Negative dental experiences in early childhood are one of the primary reason teens and young adults fail to keep their dental appointments, which can impact longterm health.”



Significantly reduce pain with WaterLase no-shot dentistry

As a matter of fact, we don’t even use drills at Orem Pediatric Dentistry. Instead, we use our state-of-the-art WaterLase, an incredible technology that allows us to treat 85% of patients pain-free without anesthetic.

For children who are more sensitive, we use local anesthetic before we consider giving shots.

Young girl smiling from her seat in the dentist's exam chair

And when it comes down to it, for children whose anxiety makes it impossible to receive treatment while awake, we offer sedation. Our state certified in-office surgery center for children makes it convenient and safe for kids to receive general anesthesia and sleep right through their cavity treatments.

We have certified anesthesiologists in office during treatment. After your child wakes up, an RN circulator (nurse) will be on site to walk you and your little one through waking up and recovery.

Visit the best dentist for anxiety patients in Orem, Utah

If your child is scared of dentist visits, you need a dentist for nervous patients. Orem Pediatric Dentistry has experienced dental professionals who know how to calm a child’s anxiety before and during appointments.

We even treat children with autism, ADHD, and other sensory processing disorders that can make it more challenging to have a positive experience at the dentist.

Even with all the precautions you can take, your child may still experience anxiety or panic attacks during their appointment. That’s why we offer a wide range of resources and tools for parents. Speak with Dr. Howell or your dental assistant before your appointment to create a strategy that’s custom-tailored to your child’s specific needs.

Give us a call today to find out more about how we can help your child at their next appointment!

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