Understanding and Managing Dental Anxiety in Children

parents talking to their daughter
  • Dental anxiety in children is a real affliction, often caused by negative experiences or fear of medical instruments.
  • It can lead to poor oral hygiene, physical symptoms, mental health issues, and a reduced quality of life.
  • Children with dental anxiety might avoid brushing their teeth, social situations, and even school or extracurricular activities.
  • Familiarity, communication, distractions, and sedation alleviate a child’s dental anxiety.
  • Early on, encouraging a positive relationship with dental care is crucial for lifelong oral health.

One of your responsibilities as a parent is ensuring your child receives proper dental care. However, taking your child to the dentist can be a daunting experience, especially if your child suffers from dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is common among children and can severely impact their oral health. Here’s what you need to know about dental anxiety, how it can affect your children, and ways to deal with it.

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a fear or intense apprehension about visiting the dentist. This fear can range from mild to extreme and can cause people to avoid going altogether. It’s essential to recognize that dental anxiety is a legitimate affliction, and it can significantly impact your child’s oral health if left untreated.

What Causes Dental Anxiety in Children?

kid holding a lollipop

There are several causes of dental anxiety in children. For some children, it begins with a negative experience at the dentist during a young age. It could also be caused by hearing stories from other people about their bad experiences at the dentist. Common causes include difficulty controlling pain and fear of needles or other medical instruments.

How Can Dental Anxiety Affect My Child?

There are various ways dental anxiety can affect your child. Here are some of those ways:

1. Poor Oral Hygiene Routine

Children who suffer from dental anxiety may avoid brushing their teeth or flossing. They may also refuse to see a dentist, even with dental problems. This can lead to poor oral hygiene, tooth decay, and gum disease. This can then lead to more serious dental issues in the future.

2. Physical Symptoms

Dental anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and heart palpitations. If your child experiences these symptoms, addressing their fears immediately is vital to prevent them from worsening.

3. Harm Your Child’s Mental Health

Dental anxiety can have a significant impact on your child’s mental health. It can cause depression anxiety, and even affect their self-esteem. Children who suffer from dental anxiety may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their dental health. It is crucial to talk openly with your child and help them understand that dental anxiety is common. You can also encourage them to discuss their fears and reassure them that you will support them throughout their dental journey.

4. Negatively Affect Your Child’s Quality Of Life

Children who suffer from dental anxiety may avoid social situations that involve food or smiling. They may also miss school, extracurricular activities, or other events due to dental anxiety. This can negatively affect your child’s quality of life and prevent them from experiencing all that childhood offers.

Dealing With Dental Anxiety

There are various ways dental anxiety can be treated. Here are four ways:


Familiarity and trust are essential to reducing dental anxiety. You can encourage your child to visit the same local dental clinic—this way, they can get used to the environment, staff, and procedures. Seeing familiar faces can also make your child feel more at ease.


Consulting doctor for family health

Encouraging your child to communicate their feelings is crucial. Openly discuss any fears or anxieties before they enter the dentist’s office. Reassure them that it is OK to express how they are feeling and that you will be there to support them.


Distractions can divert your child’s attention away from their anxieties and fears. This could be listening to music, playing games, or watching television. Discussing what works best with your child before the appointment is essential as it will help them relax and focus on something other than the dental chair.


If your child’s anxiety is severe, sedation may be an option. Various types of sedation are available, such as nitrous oxide, which is inhaled through a mask and has no known side effects. Discuss with your dentist what options are available before the appointment so you can prepare for it.

The impact of dental anxiety on children can be far-reaching, affecting their oral health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. Parents must understand this issue, recognize its signs, and take proactive measures to address it. Familiarity, open communication, distractions, and extreme sedation are practical strategies to help alleviate dental anxiety. Remember, the goal is not just to ensure your child maintains good oral health, but also to foster a positive, fear-free relationship with dental care that will last a lifetime.

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