In a list of the most common human fears, number one is public speaking and number two is death. This means that at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy! Sadly, a visit to the dentist also rates highly in this list of fears. 

Many people I talk to have a fear of the dentist and so this is a commonly asked question. Fear of the dentist often comes from a particularly painful or fearful dental visit, often as a young child. Other times it can be passed down from our parents.

Children are very in tune to their parent’s verbal and nonverbal behaviour and even simple phrases like ‘I hate the dentist’, or ‘don’t worry, it won’t hurt’ can create anxiety in a child when it comes time for their dental check-up. Fortunately there are some steps we can take as parents to minimize our kids dental anxiety.

1. Portray a dental visit as something fun and the dentist as someone who helps them.

Even if you yourself have dental anxiety, painting your child’s dental visit in a positive light will be an enormous help to them. Role-playing at home also can help prepare them so that they know what to expect at a check-up appointment. Also, finding a dentist that is gentle and can build rapport with your child will make future visits that much easier.

2. Lead by example, have regular dental checks yourself.

Although some may not like to admit it, children love to imitate their parents. When you have regular dental checks and talk about the importance of such checks they will be much more likely to want to have a check too.

3.Control the sugar in their diet and help them brush to avoid dental issues early in life.

The procedures that usually generate the most anxiety in children are fillings and extractions. Sometimes these procedures are required due to trauma but, sadly, the majority are required due to dental decay. The main causes of dental decay are a diet high in sugars/acids and poor oral hygiene. Fortunately as parents we are in an ideal position to influence these two factors. By limiting the amount of sugary food/drinks at home and helping them brush you are helping them minimize their chance of dental problems early in life.

For many a dental appointment is a fearful experience triggered by a previous traumatic episode. By adopting the advice above you will be empowering your child to establish a positive and lasting relationship with their dentist.