Scared of the dentist

How can we calm our kids before a dental appointment or surgery?

Most moms often need to manage their scared kids at the dental office and sometimes kids scream, do not want to sit down and won’t open their mouth…

Doctor Pamela Parolin, specialized in Pediatric Orthodontics at the Centro Ortodontico Vicentino tells us why most of them are afraid of the dentist and how we can deal with this fear.

Being scared of the dentist is very common as we are all scared of the unknown.
However, if this innate feeling is combined with anxiety linked to a previous negative dental/medical experience, what happens is that children respond to therapies in a negative way. Moreover a wrong parental behavior can have a bad influence since they often transmit their fears related to treatments to be faced by their kids.

Their developed capacity for imagination, especially if influenced by stories of negative experiences told by parents, can lead them to a new version of the unknown, thus originating a strong emotional stress. This stress could makes babies scared of the dentist.
Fear often emerges when they feel a lack of control or a potential painful experience, especially if they are aware of having a dental problem.

But how should we proceed when our young patients do not want to cooperate? How can we get them ready for a dental appointment? Here are some pratical tips: 


  • Arrange the first appointment when the child has no pain, so to make the first visit a positive and pleasant moment and not connected to a traumatic event
  • Set the appointment on quiet days and not in coincidence with other medical visits or activities: he will be more relaxed
  • Allow the child to bring a game or a soft toy to make him feel relaxed as at home and to have a “friend which support him” during the visit. Another “trick” could be in giving the permission for the child to choose clothings to wear so to increase his positive expectations.
  • Prepare it for the first visit as for a normal commitment, in a positive and serene way. Not emphasize the event but explain that the dentist is a friend who – like a teacher – will teach him to take care of his mouth
  • Even if you are worried, try not to let it show, in order not to pass anxiety to the child. Don’t use these words or similar: fear, pain or suffering not to create a useless state of anxiety
  • Don’t tell the child what mental and behavioral attitude is better to keep during the visit (be good, don’t cry…) to avoid an emotional stress and a negative expectation during the visit
  • Support the child throughout the duration of the first visit but stay in the waiting room during treatment appointments. This aspect is important to help the medical staff to establish a more solid relationship of trust with the small patient. Furthermore, it will help you not to involuntarily interfere during the appointments with a word or a gaze that can put on the alert the child.


In this delicate approach, the pediatric dentist is the most important person and the one who accompanies kids throughout the entire path. He is adequately trained and specialized and is able to choose the best approach based on their development level and their predisposition to therapy. Furthermore he’s able to evaluate temperament and predict their reply to dental treatments.

Each kid reacts to the dentist’s communicative and behavioral methods in a different way: tell-show-do, positive support, non-verbal communication, distraction etc.
This is when the specialist’s skills come out and become extremely important: choosing the best method in order to decrease fear and anxiety and reassure the kid in front of him.
In most difficult cases and surgical interventions, it is possible to associate these methods to specific pharmacological anxiolysis procedures. An example is the nitrous oxide. It is a non-toxic gas whose effect immediately runs out after the detachment of the mask. This technique has the goal to destroy anxiety, stress and vomit reflex.

There are other two fundamental elements that help the dentist’s work:
  • the place (waiting room and office) where kids are welcomed and treated. This needs to be welcoming and familiar, get their attention and motivate their cooperation, so that they can feel at ease.
  • the first visit: represents a very important moment in the process of getting in contact with the orthodontic world and determines a feeling of trust and empathy which are necessary for the success of the orthodontic treatment. For this reason the dentist should make the first appointment a fun, positive and constructive experience for the kid. The best moment to introduce it is when there have never been dental problems nor painful pathologies. The kid will then start to gain confidence with the orthodontist and the tools he/she uses like an “expert magician” and will learn to recognize the typical smells and noises of the dental office. A first visit with a demonstrative goal, in addition to a general one, can therefore be an advantage.

Nowadays a relaxed dental experience is possible. So keep in mind all these aspects when you choose the dentist for your kids and you will see how easy it will be to make them jump “on the magic armchair which goes up and down!”
With these simple advice they will no longer be scared of the dentist.