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Combating dental anxiety in children

Children with dental anxiety

combating dental anxiety children

Sacrifice chocolate and sweets for calcium rich foods like sugar free yoghurt? It’s no wonder that most children don’t take kindly to the stranger that preaches healthy eating habits and has a very suspicious drill in his toolset.

As a rule of thumb, children often don’t know what’s best for them and as a parent, taking your child to the dentist can be a painstaking task. However, visits to the dentist can be as simple as visits to the zoo if you send your child the right message from the beginning!

As a specialist paediatric dentist, I have discovered that parents often misunderstand the importance of caring for their child’s baby teeth. It is important to show extra care when it comes to brushing teeth and scheduling regular dental appointments in order to prevent dental problems later down the track.

Unhealthy baby teeth can often lead to unhealthy adult teeth so it is essential to take care of your child’s little pearly whites properly if you want to maintain their big happy smiles.

I recommend that children begin regularly seeing a dentist from the age of one and are encouraged to brush their teeth twice a day with a soft small head tooth brush. Of course if you notice any teeth discolouration, or your child experiences any pain you should visit a dentist immediately.


Why might children have anxiety about going to the dentist?

Previous medical history

Children who have suffered negative experiences from medical treatment may become more anxious at the dentist; studies show an association between frequent invasive medical treatments during early childhood and dental anxiety.

Previous dental history

Fear resulting from unpleasant dental visits has been linked to poor behaviour at subsequent visits. Children with dental fear and anxiety have often been exposed to tooth pain, treatment with local anaesthetic, and have a history of poor behaviour and poor oral health.

Parental anxiety

As a parent, if you cannot control your own dental anxieties, you can increase your child’s anxiety. This has been shown to occur in children of all ages, but particularly in those under four years of age.

Child awareness of a dental problem

Children who are aware that they have a dental problem are more likely to show anxiety-related problems at their first dental visit.

Temperament of the child

Dentally anxious children not only have varying levels of dental fear but also in personal characteristics. Shyness, impulsiveness and negative emotionality have been linked to and increased risk of children developing dental anxiety.

One of the key responsibilities of a paediatric dentist is to prevent and manage dental anxiety and behaviour problems in children.


Dental Anxiety Behavioural Management Techniques

Many parents worry that their child may feel anxiety towards the dentist and therefore avoid booking appointments; however, if you follow these easy tips dental anxiety will never enter your household.

Role playing techniques

Try setting up a role play of the dentist with your child’s teddy bears and dolls. This activity is not only a fun way to spend time with your child but will also sooth any unwarranted fears your child may have.

Be around other dental appointments

Take your child along to a parent or older sibling’s dental appointment. This will familiarize your child with the dentist and make him or her feel more comfortable.

Time of the day

Think about the best time in the day to take your child to the dentist. Try to avoid taking your child to the dentist around nap times as a happy child will have a happy experience.


Read your child books about the dentist. There are plenty of great books out there that can be a really useful tool in teaching your child why they need to go to the dentist and what to expect when they get there.

Positive reinforcement and rewards

Remember to always be positive about going to the dentist. Tell your child about how much fun they are going to have while the dentist makes sure their teeth are nice and healthy.

A little bit of praise never goes astray. If your child has overcome a personal hurdle by seeing the dentist, it can be a good idea to tell him or her how proud you are or even reward the child

Answer questions

Always answer your child’s questions. Usually children’s dental fears are based on school yard folk-tales which are simply untrue. A discussion with your child about what is fact and what is not is usually enough to combat any irrational fears.

Tooth Fairy

Watch the video “my first visit to the dentist” with your child by visiting Toothfairy.com.au.


How does Smile Solutions help combat dental anxiety in children?

Techniques used by our trusted and experienced paediatric dentists to prevent the development of dental phobia include:

Non-verbal aids

This includes having a child-friendly practice and a happy and positive dental treatment team


This technique is most commonly used to familiarize children with a new procedure. It involves using age-appropriate explanations and showing how the procedure works before performing it.

Positive reinforcement

This involves praising and rewarding the child at the end of a successful appointment.


The aim of this technique is to take the child’s attention away from the dental setting to focus on something unrelated. One of the ways we do this at Smile Solutions is to provide movies children can watch from the dental chair during the appointment.


An empathetic approach involves establishing good rapport with the child such that the child feels that they have been acknowledged as an individual. We do this by using open-ended and personalised questions to foster a trusting relationship.

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