Dental Anxiety Starts at Childhood…Here’s How to Prevent It!

Dental AnxietyMore than likely, we all know someone who dreads heading to the dentist’s office. Bad experiences, fear of dental tools, and feeling ashamed about a bad report are just a few of the reasons why people have reported to have felt dental anxiety. However, studies have shown that 75% of those with dental fears say it came from a bad experience during childhood. As parents, it’s important to ease your child’s fears as much as possible, especially when it’s so easy for that fear to be carried over into adulthood. 

For some children, a dental visit is a very real and frightening experience. Some kids may even have panic symptoms before a visit, which could potentially develop into a dental phobia if those negative feelings are not managed properly. While studies have shown that there is a correlation between bad dental experiences and dental anxiety, they have also shown that children model the dental phobia and anxieties that their parents exhibit. Potentially, your own dental anxiety could have long-lasting—and quite negative—effects on not only you, but also your children. Luckily, there are ways to prevent dental anxiety in kids, even if you suffer from it yourself. 

Open and Honest Communication

It’s important to be open and honest about the nature of your children’s dental visit. Even a standard visit can make a child anxious. Sharing the details of what to expect during their visit can go a long way in calming your child’s fears. 

When your child asks questions about the dentist, don’t shy away from answering them. Try to answer honestly, clearly, and confidently in order to help ease any fear or anxiety they may have. 

Causes of Triggers

Try to figure out what is triggering your child’s dental phobia or anxiety. One of the best ways to overcome a problem is by understanding where it is coming from. A child (or even an adult for that matter) can have an array of fears about visiting the dentist. Fears about dental tools, the potential for pain, or even the loss of control while in the dental chair are common triggers amongst children. Having an open and honest conversation with your child can help you better understand where their fear is coming from, so you can work on helping them overcome it. 

Calm Their Nerves Before an Appointment

One of the best things you can do about dental anxiety is to make your child as comfortable as possible prior to their appointment. Breathing techniques, distracting them with an iPad or game, comforting them by making sure they know you’ll be there with them the whole time, or even good old-fashioned bribery (a special treat after the visit) can go a long way. 

Start Dental Care Young

The best way to make sure your child doesn’t fear the dentist’s office is to teach them the importance of dental care at a young age. This is not only healthy for the child, but it also helps the dentist identify potential oral health issues before they snowball into bigger issues that could potentially lead to painful dental procedures. 

Find the Right Family Dentist for Your Child

As you can see, there are many negative experiences that could lead to childhood dental anxieties—and, later, adult dental anxieties. It’s essential to find the right dentist for your family’s needs. If you or your child experience dental anxiety, speak with someone about your fears before the appointment. This will not only ease your discomfort surrounding the appointment, but it will also help your dental team better prepare to make your visit as comfortable as possible. 


Temple Family Dentistry is a private dentistry practice that has been servicing the Temple, PA community for several decades. We pride ourselves on making our patients feel at home in our dentist’s office from the moment they walk through our doors. Dr. Dan and his team provide much more than basic dental care. In addition to your bi-annual cleanings, we also offer extractions, root canals, dental implants, dentures, and more, based on your individualized treatment plan. You will never feel like a number here, and we are happy to take the time needed to answer your questions and ensure your satisfaction. For your convenience, we offer flexible hours and accept same-day appointments for dental emergencies.