What to Do When Your Children Don't Want to Go to the Dentist

Any parent knows that when a child doesn't want to do something, it can be a very difficult situation. When this comes to important health check-ups, it can be even more of a problem when you're worried about keeping on top of your child's dental health and making sure they attend all relevant appointments.

Children can also go through a lot of necessary dental treatment at a young age. Your child may need braces, other orthodontic attention, or just to ensure that adult teeth like wisdom teeth are coming through without any issues. All of this makes it even more stressful if you have a child who simply doesn't want to attend the dentist. Not only that, but the stress and dental anxiety experienced by the child can then transfer onto the parent, meaning some parents may easily avoid going to the dentist with their child just to avoid the stress.

There are ways in which dental anxiety in children can be alleviated, however, which means you don't have to worry forever about your child avoiding the dentist. We have all the information you need.

Signs of Dental Anxiety in Your Child

Acknowledging the dental phobia in your child, as well as pinpointing the specific reasons your child might be afraid of the dentist, will help in combatting the fear and making for a stress-free dental appointment.

  • Refusal to attend: This is one of the most obvious ones and makes it a lot easier to understand the problem if your child outright tells you they are afraid of the dentist or refuses to go to their appointment. They may make it very difficult, such as refusing to get dressed, leave the house, or come inside the dental office.
  • Sleep problems: If your child has trouble sleeping in the lead-up to dental treatment, this can be an indication of dental anxiety. It can take some time to monitor this, but it can be a key sign to watch out for.
  • Physical symptoms: Your child may have a physical reaction to their dental fear, such as sweating, headaches, shaking, increased pulse, feeling sick, other stomach pain, or frequent toileting due to nerves.

While dental anxiety can be challenging to deal with for both parent and child, it's important to never ignore symptoms like these and also look to tackle the issue in a positive way rather than discipline your child for suffering from dental fear.

Coping with Dental Anxiety: How You and Your Child Can Combat the Fear

  • Avoid Vocalizing Your Own Fears About the Dentist

Children very easily pick up on negative or anxious behavior from their parents, and they also learn from their parents' own attitudes. This means that if you have ever feared the dentist and have been very vocal about your fears, your child is likely to have picked up on that. If you constantly talk about how afraid you are for an upcoming dental experience or talk about how scared you felt afterward, your child is going to hear this and may attempt to copy that behavior and associate the dentist with fear.

Even if you have dental worries yourself, it's best not to discuss them openly with your child.

  • Meet the Dental Team Beforehand

Your child is going to feel less afraid with people they have already met and feel comfortable around. It can, therefore, be a good idea to take your child to your chosen dentist before their appointment, or when you first register them, so they can get acquainted with the space and the people working within it. If possible, your child could meet their dentist before any procedures to be introduced. Your dentist can then help to build their confidence and trust, and your child will then recognize the dental team for every appointment afterward as one they can feel comfortable with.

This is a good reason why a family dentist, like Asheville family dentistry, is a great choice to develop that welcoming, family atmosphere your child can rely on.

  • Explain That It's Okay to Take a Break 

All dentists will explain that you are okay for raising your hand in the middle of a check-up or procedure if you need a break or if you're suffering discomfort or worry. This applies to your child when in the dentist's chair, too, and it's important that they know this beforehand. Explaining that they can stop anytime by raising their hand, or showing them how it's done, will help to alleviate some of their worries.

  • Let Them Sit in the Dental Chair

Before the dentist gets straight into it with dental work, your child might want to get used to the chair first. Speaking with your dentist about sparing time to let them sit in the chair for a few minutes can help them to realize that it's a safe space and this is where they'll be sitting for their treatment.

  • Play Dental Procedures at Home

Lots of children will love playing healthcare roles with plastic stethoscopes and an array of artificial tools. Playing dentist at home can be a great way to turn what could be a scary procedure into something fun. You can play with your child with fake dental instruments and pretend to check their teeth and gums, have them lie back in a chair, check their heartbeat, and do anything else that makes them associate healthcare procedures with something fun. Make sure to have lots of laughing and play, and have them conduct checks on you in return so that actual dental checks can seem less serious.


We'll Help Care for Your Children's Oral Health


At our pediatric dentist Asheville NC, we have the best staff and environment to always help your child feel at ease when it comes to their dental care. We understand how important dental checks are to your child's overall health, so we can help make the process as easy (and anxiety-free) as possible for both of you.