Data from the University of Adelaide shows 16% of the general population and 10% of children experience severe dental phobia. This common phenomena is largely a result of fearing the unknown. It’s common, even healthy for us to have some fear going into a new experience. But for those children who continue to experience a fear of their pediatric dentist, and who experience dental anxiety well after their first visit, it’s important to get to the root cause. Let’s explore dental anxiety and how to help anxious children.

What Are the Signs My Child is Experiencing Dental Anxiety?

Learning the signs of dental anxiety can help you proactively address and alleviate their fears. 


Signs of Dental Anxiety in Children Include:


  • Restlessness and trouble sleeping before an appointment


  • Irritability to pay attention at school with an upcoming appointment


  • Sweating and racing heartbeat on the day of the appointment


  • Fainting and dizziness before or immediately after an appointment

A recent article from the Child Mind Institute highlighted the link between anxiety and children acting out of character. 

The Most Common Reasons Behind Dental Anxiety in Children

When children become anxious and refuse to go to the dentist, it can help to understand their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The following are several common reasons children may experience dental anxiety.

Having a Negative Dental Experience

A negative experience imprints on us and children experience sensory details in a way most adults don’t. If they’ve ever had to undergo a dental emergency due to a broken tooth or had a painful experience at a previous dentist, they’ll naturally be more anxious about an upcoming appointment.

Feeling Out of Control

Many children experience anxiety in environments where they lack control: at school or during road trips. The dental office is an unfamiliar environment in which children cannot control their surroundings and the treatment process. It can be difficult for some to become comfortable without control.

Fear of the Unknown

Before ever setting foot in the dental office, many children feel a sense of anxiety and may lash out immediately before or during an appointment. The fear of the unknown is a leading driver of dental office anxiety and that’s why pediatric dentists in particular train extensively to communicate with their patients and allay any fears through clear explanations.

What Steps Can I Take to Help Relieve My Child’s Dental Anxiety?

Relieving a child’s dental anxiety requires working alongside your pediatric dentist to make sure the pre-visit and post-visit time at home, as well as their in-office experience are comfortable. 

Create a List of Questions for their Dentist

For older children with dental anxiety, creating a list of questions for the dentist is a good way to both help them engage with their feelings and to create a clear dialogue with their specialist. 

Work with Your Dentist to Explain Treatment Benefits

With your child set to undergo a procedure and worrying about the treatment process, work with your dentist to explain the treatment benefits to your child. Connect the benefits with a future goal of theirs or an activity they enjoy. 

Role Play the Dental Visit with Younger Children

Younger children and those with a high degree of fear of the unknown will benefit from practicing the visit. By role playing each phase of the treatment, from your arrival at the office, to your journey back home, can help clear up any misconceptions your child might have about the dentist. 

The Role of Your Pediatric Dentist 

Your pediatric dentist plays a critical role in alleviating your child’s dental anxiety. They can form connections with patients to minimize anxiousness and transform potentially anxiety-ridden dentist visits into years of happy office memories and exceptional oral health.

Skilled pediatric dentists will:

Give Children a Sense of Control of Their Own Dental Experience

The right pediatric dentist can empower your child and give them a sense of control over their dental experience. They teach anxious children the value of oral hygiene and give them the tools and information they need to actively protect their oral health.

Turn the Office Visit Into a Fun, Positive Experience

Children with anxiety can be engaged with fun and novel experiences at the dentist’s office. For example, Dr. Fran here at Glow Pediatric Dentistry creates balloon animals for his patients. While taking their work incredibly seriously, being able to enjoy a moment of fun and laughter helps pediatric dentists provide a surprising and fun experience at the office.

Ask Children About Their Concerns and Then Address Them

Removing the stigma behind anxiety and allowing children to address questions directly to them, skilled pediatric dentists can help clear up any misconceptions children may have about their treatments. This approach enables children to bring up stories they’ve heard from peers or potential fears their young minds create and allows the dentist to utilize their years of training in communications to deliver clear messaging to explain potentially complex topics.

Glow Pediatric Dentistry Specializes in Anxiety Management

The entire team at Glow Pediatric Dentistry is trained in responding to the requirements of young patients experiencing dental anxiety. From our expert communication to our safe sedation options, we have the techniques and tools to support all patients and bring lasting comfort through patient-centric treatment. 

Discover the Glow Pediatric Dentistry difference. Visit our pediatric dentistry offices in Richmond  or Langley for specialist services for young patients with anxiety.