Tips for Easing your Child’s Dental Anxiety


Dental anxiety is a common fear among children, and it can make trips to the dentist a stressful experience for both the child and the parent. As a parent, it can be difficult to see your child feeling anxious and scared, but there are ways to help ease their fears and make dental visits a more positive experience. In this article, we will discuss tips for easing your child’s dental anxiety and making their dental visits more comfortable.

Overcoming fear is an essential step in helping children with dental anxiety. By starting dental visits at an early age, choosing a pediatric dentist, and using positive reinforcement, parents can create a supportive environment that helps children feel more comfortable and less anxious. Additionally, explaining the dental procedures in a simple and positive manner, using coping strategies like deep breathing and visualization, and considering dental sedation when necessary can all contribute to overcoming fear and making dental visits a more positive experience for children.

Understanding Dental Anxiety in Children

Kids Dental Anxiety

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a fear or phobia of visiting the dentist. It can range from mild anxiety to extreme fear and can be triggered by various factors such as the fear of pain, needles, or the unknown. Children may also develop anxiety if they have had a negative experience at the dentist in the past.

Signs of Dental Anxiety in Children

A 2017 research revealed that more than 20% of individuals suffering from dental fear avoid regular dental visits, and it’s conjectured that 9–15% never seek dental care at all.

It is important to recognize the signs of dental anxiety in your child so that you can address it and help them cope. Some common signs of anxiety in children include:

  • Crying or throwing tantrums before or during a dental visit
  • Refusing to open their mouth or cooperate with the dentist
  • Clenching their fists or tensing their body
  • Complaining of stomach aches or headaches before a dental visit
  • Showing signs of distress or fear when talking about the dentist or dental procedures

Tips for Easing Fear of The Dentist

Start Early

One of the best ways to prevent anxiety in children is to start dental visits at an early age. This will help them become familiar with the dental office and the procedures, making them less anxious in the future. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental visit by their first birthday.

Choose a Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with children and understand their fears and anxieties. They also have a child-friendly office environment and use techniques to make dental visits more comfortable for children. Choosing a pediatric dentist can help ease your child’s anxiety and make their visits more positive.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Praising and rewarding your child for good behavior during dental visits can help ease their anxiety. This can be in the form of a small treat or a fun activity after the visit. Positive reinforcement can help your child associate dental visits with positive experiences, making them less anxious in the future.

Explain the Process

Before a dental visit, take the time to explain to your child what will happen during the visit. Use simple and positive language to describe the procedures and reassure them that the dentist is there to help keep their teeth healthy. This will help alleviate any fears of the unknown and make them feel more in control of the situation.

Use Coping Strategies

There are various coping strategies that can help ease dental anxiety in children. These include:

  • Deep breathing: Teach your child to take deep breaths before and during the dental visit to help them relax.
  • Distraction: Bring along a favorite toy or book to keep your child occupied during the visit.
  • Visualization: Encourage your child to imagine a happy place or a fun activity during the visit to help them relax.
  • Positive self-talk: Teach your child to use positive self-talk, such as “I can do this” or “I am brave”, to help them feel more confident and in control.

Consider Dental Sedation

In some cases, dental sedation may be recommended for children with severe dental anxiety. This can include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedation, or IV sedation. These methods can help your child feel more relaxed and comfortable during the dental visit. Talk to your child’s dentist about the best option for your child.

Additional Resources for How to Overcome Dental Anxiety


Online forums can be a great resource for parents and children dealing with anxiety. These forums provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and offer support and advice to others. Some popular forums include Dental Fear Central and Dental Phobia Support.

Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale

The Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale is a questionnaire that can be used to assess the level of anxiety in children. It consists of four questions that measure a child’s anxiety towards dental visits. This scale can be a helpful tool for parents and dentists to identify and address anxiety in children.

By understanding the level of anxiety a child is experiencing, appropriate anxiety relief techniques can be implemented to help them overcome their fear. With the use of relaxation techniques, positive reinforcement, and gradual exposure to dental visits, children can gradually overcome their dental anxiety and have a more positive experience at the dentist.

Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale is a widely used assessment tool in the field of dentistry. It was developed by psychologist Norman Corah in 1969 and has since become one of the most widely recognized and utilized measures of anxiety. This scale consists of a simple questionnaire that aims to measure an individual’s level of anxiety and fear specifically related to dental procedures and visits.

The scale is made up of five items and participants are asked to rate their anxiety on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “not anxious” to “extremely anxious.” This tool has been proven to be reliable and valid in measuring dental phobia and has been instrumental in identifying individuals who may require additional support and interventions to manage their anxiety in a dental setting.

Dentists and dental professionals often use this scale as a screening tool to assess patients’ anxiety levels and tailor their approach and treatment accordingly. It has greatly contributed to the understanding and management of this type of anxiety, ultimately leading to improved patient experiences and outcomes.

Overall, Corah’s Scale has had a significant impact on the field of dentistry and continues to play a crucial role in the assessment and management of dental anxiety.

  • The Corah Dental Anxiety Scale is a tool developed to assess the level of anxiety in individuals.
  • It consists of four questions that ask about the anxiety experienced before and during dental procedures.
  • The scale assigns a score to each response, ranging from 1 to 5, with higher scores indicating higher levels of anxiety.
  • The total score is calculated by summing up the scores of all four questions.
  • This scale can help dental professionals understand and address the anxiety experienced by their patients.
  • It can be used as a screening tool to identify individuals who may require additional support or interventions to manage their anxiety.
  • The scale is simple and easy to administer, making it a practical tool in dental settings.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can be helpful in easing anxiety in children. These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. You can find guided relaxation exercises specifically designed for children on websites such as Kids Relaxation and Relax Kids.

Calming Techniques

There are also various calming techniques that can help children feel more relaxed during dental visits. These include:

  • Listening to music: Bring along your child’s favorite music to listen to during the visit.
  • Using a weighted blanket: A weighted blanket can provide a sense of comfort and security for children with anxiety.
  • Using a fidget toy: Fidget toys can help distract and calm children during dental procedures.


Dental anxiety is a common fear among children, but there are ways to help ease their fears and make dental visits a more positive experience. Starting dental visits at an early age, choosing a pediatric dentist, and using positive reinforcement can all help prevent and ease anxiety in children. Additionally, using coping strategies, considering dental sedation, and utilizing online resources can also be beneficial. By following these tips, you can help your child overcome their dental anxiety and maintain good oral health.

How do you talk to your dentist about dental anxiety?

Schedule a consultation and express your concerns clearly. Be honest about your anxiety level and discuss specific fears. Ask about relaxation techniques and sedation options. Inquire about the treatment plan to mentally prepare yourself.

What are the different methods used to treat dental anxiety?

Methods to Treat Dental Anxiety:
– Sedation Dentistry: Includes nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, or IV sedation.
– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): To change negative thought patterns.
– Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation.
– Distraction Techniques: Music, TV, or stress balls during treatment.
– Communication: Clear and frequent communication with the dentist.

What is dental anxiety?

A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about dental visits. It often involves fear of dental procedures, which can lead to delaying or avoiding dental care.

What is dental phobia, and what are some signs of it?

Dental Phobia and Signs:
Definition: An intense, irrational fear of dental work, stronger than anxiety.
Signs: Extreme distress, panic attacks, trouble sleeping before dental appointments, avoidance of dental care, feeling physically ill at the thought of a dental visit.

What is the best way to deal with dental anxiety and fear?

Best Way to Deal with Dental Anxiety and Fear:
– Open Communication: Discuss fears with the dentist.
– Sedation Options: Explore sedation or anesthesia.
– Gradual Exposure: Start with less invasive treatments.
– Psychological Techniques: CBT, mindfulness, or relaxation methods.
– Support: Bring a friend or family member to appointments.
– Positive Reinforcement: Reward yourself after appointments.

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Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Schwed holds a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from New York University and completed his advanced pediatric dentistry training at Brookdale University Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is Board-Certified in Pediatric Dentistry. His professional interests include studying the biological underpinnings of tooth decay and oral disease, particularly focusing on the oral-systemic connection, which underscores the significant impact of oral health on overall well-being. He has also delved into advanced studies in laser dentistry, particularly in treating oral diseases and structural defects like tongue and lip ties.

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