Don’t pass on your fear of the dentist

Children pick up on things, and often it’s those things we might not want them to pick up on! The curse word that slipped, the habit you keep meaning to break, and so on. Dental phobia is a very common problem– about 9-18% of Americans suffer from varying degrees of dental anxiety, ranging from dislike of the dentist to refusal to go for treatment. Even those who are not included in those numbers may just not like going to the dentist! About 30% of children are afraid to visit the dentist, however when their parents are afraid of the dentist, that number jumps to 40%. So how can you avoid passing on your fear of the dentist to your child?


1. Awareness. 

Being aware and mindful of the issue is the first step. Make sure all of your comments and dialogue about the dentist are positive, even if you think your child isn’t listening! Children are perceptive and can pick up even the slightest negativity about a subject, and often consider their parents the experts. If they think the dentist is a place you don’t like to go, they won’t want to go either

2. Start early. 

Begin by bringing your child to your dental cleaning. Allow them to ride in the chair,and have your dentist explain the routine without actually cleaning their teeth. If it seems necessary, continue to do this with your visits or even better, sibling dental visits, until your child needs a cleaning.

3. Partner with your dentist. 

Call ahead and make sure your dentist is aware it is a first visit. Most dentists are prepared and willing to make the first dental visit a fun learning experience with a special prize, or even a movie or music to help pass the time in the chair.

4. Keep it positive. 

Don’t coach your child that “it won’t hurt” –it probably hasn’t crossed their mind that the dentist


hurt in the first place! Explain the hygiene visit, what tools they might use, or perhaps even check some fun dental books out of the library! There are many great, educational books about a first visit to the dentist. Never share any of your own negative experiences about the dentist.

About the author

A practicing dentist since 1982, Dr. Gary Imm, provides advanced cosmetic dentistry, including smile makeovers, sedation, implant and TMJ services. He is committed to progressive, extraordinary care for his guests. All Smiles Dental Care trains at least 300 hours each year at such prestigious centers as the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dentistry. (LVI)