An American Association of Endodontists survey discovered that 80% of adult Americans have the fear of the dentist.

More than 50% say this fear can stop them from visiting a dentist, and about 5-10% are considered dental phobics--individuals so scared of dentists that they'll do whatever they can to avoid dental care.

The idea of a routine tooth cleaning causes fear in grownups, so it's natural that children may also find dental visits rather daunting.

Is your kid scared of a dental visit? If so, here's how to help them relax before their next dental checkup.

Start Young

Start your kid's visit early on. Kids should have their first dental visit as soon as possible--ideally the first birthday.

Dental offices are built to help kids have a relaxed and comfortable visit. A child dentist often applies medicine to ease dental fears there and then, such as oxygen inhalation or nitrous oxide.

More importantly, however, communication between the parent, dentist, and child builds confidence and trust that lasts through a lifetime of dental checkups.

Overcome Fear of the Dentist with Role Play

Sometimes enacting a scenario helps to ease children's fears when they're actually in that situation.

For example, playing the dentist with your children helps them get acquainted with what actually happens in a dental office. This can help them prepare better for the visit.

Set up a mock dental chair in the living room or dining room, and play the dentist. Examine your child's teeth, pretend to check inside the kid's mouth, count their teeth, and discuss X-rays.

Thank your kid for 'visiting' and give them a sticker. Your child will now be a bit more ready for the actual visit.

Lead by Example

A great way to get your kid ready for routine dental checkups and teeth cleaning is to take them along to some of your visits. If you show your child that you're comfortable, happy and maybe even having fun, they may overcome much of their anxiety.

By coming with you, your kid can discover how a dentist visit can help prevent health issues as they grow older.

Ask Around

The dentists' training prepares them to treat everyone regardless of age. After 2-3 visits, your kid will get more used to the dentist's routine.

If you're not sure of where to look for a child dentist, ask people around you for recommendations on dentists who are good at treating nervous kids.

Your local doctor, work colleagues, or friends may be an excellent source to get a recommendation.

Make Your Kid See that the Dentist is Human, After All

For a kid seeing the dentist for the very first time, a dentist's mask may be very scary. If you're on your own appointment, introduce the dentist to your child so they cease being a stranger.

It's even better if you can point out something you two have in common. For instance: "This is Dr. Jones. He's got a dog like us! May I show you a photo?"

By taking your kid to routine dental exams from when they're very young, instead of waiting to fix a painful condition, your kid will realize that a dental visit isn't always associated with pain.

Watch Your Words

Never use the 'P' (pain), 'H' (hurt), or 'S' (shot) words with kids. Let the dentist introduce their own lexicon to kids to help them cope with difficult situations.

Instead, tell your kid that the doctor is checking for "sugar bugs" so they can remove them from teeth. You can also tell them that the dentist is going to count their teeth and check their smile.

Use positive lines like "strong, clean, healthy teeth" to show the kid that the visit is good fun, rather than frightening and alarming.

Make them Read Books on Visiting the Dentist

Reading from a colorful, fun book helps relax kids. Plenty of books have been written about visiting the dentist.

They usually describe what goes on in the dentist's chair, and place characters in amusing situations so children can see that visiting the dentist is no big deal.

If kids see their beloved characters having their teeth cleaned, they'll think that it's not that bad.

Stay with Your Kid

When your kid visits the dentist for the first time ever, they may experience anxiety regardless of how much you have prepared them. By staying close, you can help your kid stay positive and calm.

This is an excellent way to help your child beat the fear of the dentist and gradually get comfortable having exams on their own.

Have a Plan 'B'

It's normal for little ones to be troublesome, so it's always best to meet with the dentist and dental hygienist prior to the visit and disclose some information about your kid.

Tell them about siblings, their beloved Disney character, or their new puppy. This way, the dentist can chat about things your kid can relate to should there a fussy moment.

Just changing their state of mind for a minute can eliminate the fear and stop the tears.

Give Them Treats for Bravery

A reward always helps put a smile on your child's face in a big way. Make a deal prior to the visit.

For example, if your little darling can brave the whole treatment they'll get a treat, such as a new book or a trip to their favorite restaurant.

You can even create a game. For example, for each smile you see your kid make at the office, you can reward them with points they can redeem for a special gift.


These pointers will help you manage your kid's dental anxiety better. However, if you need experienced professional help, please call in a therapist to help your child be more ready and able to stay calm in the dentist's office.

At Grout Family Dentistry, we offer comprehensive dental care to all, including children.

Contact us today for more information about how we can take care of your child's oral health and help them overcome their fear of the dentist.