Help Your Grade-Schooler Overcome Their Fear of Dentists

Is this your home? ‘Your grade-schooler throws tantrums, screams, complains or even cries every time you bring up the thought of visiting a dentist.’ Or, maybe he or she retreats into a sullen smoldering.

With the relative sophistication of today’s kids, we forget sometimes that they are still little kids.

And, at their age, it is STILL normal for them to be a little frightened about the bright lights, the hats and gloves and that big dental chair they not normally part of their day-to-day life.

As a matter of fact, a large percentage of school-aged children round-the-globe share the same fear. Come to think of it, a lot of adults still do too!

However, as a parent, you know how important it is for your grade-schoolers to regularly visit a dentist — especially, to keep those smiles bright and happy.

So how do you live up to that responsibility to help your kids overcome that fear?

You can’t just give up on them. You want the best for them. But, you are also busy and a little unsure of how to help them.

To help parents deal with this, here are a few reliable tips to help overcome the dentist ‘tantrum attack’ or doldrums:

Start Early

Start introducing dentists to your kids as early as two years old. Make it an adventure to go with stories and songs and plenty of hugs and kisses. Starting with the right attitude early prevents a LOT of later upset.

However, if it is already too late for that strategy, and your child is already school age — don’t think that it’s too late. In that situation, it is true that bringing them to a Dental Center won’t be as easy to sell to them as to a child of two.

Yet, you CAN still start preparing them for a visit day without trauma or fuss… it is all about re-framing the experience.

Use WIFM (What’s In It For Me)

Introduce the topic of dentists as something that they will get an immediate benefit from. cavities or oral health are not really something that affects what is important to them – their friends, school, other kids, acceptance and a loving environment.

Discuss with them what IS relevant and ‘in it for them’ by the visit (other than no cavities). Something like:

♦ How kids are nicer to kids with good smiles.

♦ How getting cavities would be very painful and a sealant will help protect them.

♦ How the dentist visit is their first line of defense against bad breath and teasing.

Read Them Stories

For early grade-schoolers, stories and fantasy are still very impactful. Reading them bedtime stories like the story of the tooth fairy is one effective way to help them overcome the fear.

Today, there are plenty of books telling stories about visiting a dentist and take note — they are all fun to read. So invest in a storybook or three and you’ll see you kids not only learn from them, but also enjoy the extra bonding time with you!

Bring Them With You

If you are going to your dentist for checkups, allow them to watch you while you are in a short procedure.

Talk to your dentist about the situation and set this up in advance. Most dentists will be fine with helping you show them that getting in and being checked by a dentist is never as scary as he thought it will be.

* However, make sure that you only bring your grade-schooler to watch you only during your check-ups and not in any other complicated dental procedures.

See A Children’s Dentist

Giving them a dentist who specializes in a pediatric practice is important to make the dentist visit live up to your preparation. The best thing to do is to consider a pediatric dentist or a children’s only dental center.

Just like you, children need dental treatments and care for them to have those healthy smiles and not affect their school performances. Taking your school age children to a dentist who specializes in a good experience for children will not only help them maintain those smiles — but also help you relieve any dentist visit anxiety.

You CAN eliminate pre-dentist visit trauma and tantrums… even if your child is already in grade school and past 1st visit. It just takes a little preparation and careful selection of a dental practice focused on your child’s positive experience.


Dr Karen Chu DMD