Did you know that one in three school-age children are afraid of the dentist? Dentophobia, the medical term that describes the fear of the dentist, is very common, particularly among kids.

If your child suffers from dental anxiety, then it might make it tricky (when not impossible) to get them to see their dentist. Worse still, if you don’t treat dental anxiety in childhood, chances are that it will continue through to adulthood. The consequences of this phobia on a person’s dental health can be very serious.

Before you try to figure out how to treat your child’s dentophobia, it’s important to look and what causes it in the first place. Read this article to discover the most common causes of dental anxiety in kids.

Physical Discomfort

It may sound trivial, but pain is one of the main reasons why children are afraid of the dentist. They know, often because they’ve heard it from grown-ups, that many dental procedures involve a certain degree of discomfort.

Whether or not they get to experience any pain is not important: it’s the anticipation of this possibility that creates the fear.

Yes, it is true that some dental treatments aren’t exactly very pleasant. They are, though, all essential to ensure the health of your child’s teeth, so you will need to address this fear sooner rather than later.

A great way to minimize any potential pain is to book your child in with a pediatric dentist. A good pediatric dentist knows how to perform comprehensive examinations with minimal discomfort. For this reason, it’s important that your child gets seen by a dentist with this type of expertise.

Underlying Issues of Anxiety

Did you think that it was only us adults who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? Well, you might need to think again. GAD in children is more common than you’d expect, with up to 4.6% of children and teens presenting with this diagnosis.

When a child is already suffering from a pre-existing anxiety condition such as GAD, it is then common that other types of anxieties arise. Dentophobia is, as we mentioned, one of the most widespread phobias, which makes an anxious child more prone to suffer from it.

Treating a child who suffers from GAD often requires the intervention of a medical professional. Consult with your family doctor if you think that your kid might need this type of help.

Previous Negative Experiences

People who, as kids, experience very painful, traumatic, or in any other way negative dental visits, are more inclined to develop dentophobia. If you think that this might be the case for your child, then there are a few things that you can do. You could, for example, encourage them to talk to you about what exactly they remember about their previous visits, and why they found it so upsetting.

Then, you could try to help them re-frame their memories in a more positive, or at least neutral, way. Another essential factor to bear in mind is that you might want to choose a different dentist altogether.

Did your child use to go to a general or family dentist? Then, you should consider having them treated by a pediatric dentist. This is not just because pediatric dentists offer a much better and more specialized knowledge of children’s dental issues.

It’s also because they have expertise in and are passionate about dealing with young, and often fearful, children in a fun, playful, and enjoyable way.

Fear of the Equipment, Surroundings, and Dental Team

Sometimes, the very fact of being sat in a dentist’s office is enough to set off a young child’s imagination. They might view the dentist’s practice as a scary place, full of strange objects and bizarre people wearing masks and aprons

Like in a scary story, the child might imagine that these objects or people might hurt him, simply because they look so strange and unfamiliar. Well, if that’s the case for your child, then you can try and reason with them before you take them for their check-up.

It might be useful to buy a few books about kids going to the dentist, as well as watch some cartoons or videos featuring dentist or dental procedures. Try to frame the whole experience in a fun and playful light.

You will also want to get your child to become acquainted with the tools of the trade. Show them what objects their dentist might be using, tell them what they’re called, and make up a nice story about them. However you choose to address this will be great, as long as it helps to make your child feel more at ease and comfortable when visiting the dentist.

The Importance of Understanding Why Your Child Is Afraid of the Dentist

Being afraid of the dentist is a pretty usual occurrence in young children. This doesn’t mean, though that you, as a parent, should accept it and not do anything about it. Understanding the root causes of this phobia is essential.

Dentophobia can occur because of several different factors. These can include physical pain, pre-existing anxiety, previous negative experiences, and a fear of the dental office environment and people. 

If your child has this type of fear, it’s crucial that they are seen by an experienced pediatric dentist. These dentists have a profound understanding of this issue and know how to put children at ease and help them to feel safe and comfortable.

The dental team at Colleyville Children’s Dentistry is looking forward to welcoming your little one and helping them to overcome their dental anxiety.