The Fight Against Cavities: How to Care for Babies' Teeth

Is Your Child Scared of the Dentist?

As many as 20 percent of children have some fear about going to the dentist, says John E. Nathan, D.D.S., adjunct professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and an expert on dental anxiety in kids. Help things go smoothly with his tips:
Figure out the problem.
Understanding the origins of your child's dental fears will give you a way to find effective strategies for helping him develop coping skills.
Choose the right dentist.
Ask your child's doc for a referral or find one at aapd.org. You're looking for someone who can recognize and allay dental fears, a person you find easy to communicate with and who has a gentle manner with kids.
Talk to the dentist before the appointment. Prep him about your child's temperament, and find out what you can expect. Ask things like, "How do you work?", "Will I be allowed in the exam room?", "How do you handle uncooperative behavior?"
Control yourself. Kids can quickly pick up on a parent's anxiety, so if you're nervous about how your child will react, do your best to conceal it. And avoid statements like "it won't hurt too much" and bringing up shots or the idea of pain.
Use a step-by-step approach.
If your dentist is willing, make the first visit a "look-see," the second for the exam, and then a third for any procedure. It requires more time and money, but this approach can help.
Don't give up. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to outgrow their apprehensions by school age. And research shows that kids who go to the dentist for regular checkups (even those who have meltdowns at first) are less likely to have anxiety than kids who don't go as often.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

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