Knowing why children are afraid of the dentist will really help you correct this problem.

“In my opinion, I believe that kids are very much influenced by their parents,” says Cyndi Blalock, DDS, owner of Cardinal Dental in St. Peters, MO.

“If their parents are afraid of the dentist, most likely the child will grow up with similar fear,” continues Dr. Blalock.

It’s simple: Children internalize their parents’ anxieties. And there are adults out there who are scared out of their wits of the dentist. This is evident in online forums. Also, why do you think there’s a such thing as “sedation dentistry”?

Dr. Blalock explains, “There have been many times that I have had a parent in the room and they themselves were so nervous that they began making scary comments about what I was doing.

“Or I told the parent that the child has a cavity, and their immediate response was, “Well, you’re getting a shot in the mouth.”

While that may be the truth, I have ways that I can numb a pediatric patient without them ever know that a shot was used to do it!

“But if the parent tells them they’re getting a shot, its an uphill battle for me to try to will over a child and convince them that I’m not going to hurt them.  After all, mom said this is going to hurt!”

Parents need to choose their words carefully and not think that this is coddling their child or will make their child a wimp.

Words are powerful. If you think that kids are just overly sensitive, imagine how you’d feel (assuming you’re a woman), if your husband or mother one day said, “That dress makes you look fat.” Words…

Dr. Blalock says, “Sometimes if a child has had a previous bad medical experience such as an illness resulting in hospitalization, surgery or injury, he or she will have a harder time not being fearful of the dentist.  The fear of the unknown can also contribute to it.”

Don’t act nervous even about your own upcoming dental treatment.

If your child hears you expressing your own fears about an upcoming dental appointment, don’t be surprised if this leaves an unshakeable impression.

Even if you say nothing, your child will see your body language as you sit in the waiting room, fidgeting, looking unnerved.

Though this article is mainly about why children can develop a fear of the dentist, it’s also important to hear what Dr. Blalock advises to resolve or prevent this problem.

She explains, “Encourage your child to not be fearful of the dentist.  Instead of instilling fear of the dentist into your child, instill trust in them.

Most dentists really do not enjoy hurting people, contrary to how we are portrayed in the movies and in the media.  Never use the word ‘shot’ to your child.”

Here are more words to avoid using: drill, scrape, poke, dig and needle. Friendlier words are: polish, make sparkle, instrument and check things out.

The health of Dr. Blalock’s patients is a top priority at Cardinal Dental. She provides a comfortable and caring environment where she can effectively customize a dental plan to suit the needs of you and your family.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Vitali Michkou