How Can I Help My Child’s Fear Of The Dentist?

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Posted by: Kevin Mulryne

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Show notes:

In this week’s episode

How Can I Help My Child’s Fear Of The Dentist?

Raising Adventurous Eaters in a Chicken Nugget World

8 Fool Proof Tips to Help Children Who Are Scared of Going to the Dentist

Plus … 

I am in Conversation with Emma Pickett, author of ‘The Breast Book – A puberty guide with a difference’ to listen to the full interview, please click on the link below: 

Sue in Conversation with Emma Pickett

Connect with Emma






Emma’s Book – The Breast Book, A Puberty Guide With A Difference

A child can go all through their entire schooling without ever hearing a mention of human breast milk. They will learn about the process of photosynthesis and how plants get food, and study in detail the human digestive system and nutrition, yet there is no statutory obligation for schools to so much as mention the crucial function of human breasts or how babies get their food.

Former Deputy Head teacher and breastfeeding counsellor Emma Pickett is set to re-dress the balance with her friendly guide, The Breast Book. This essential book for girls aged 9-14 years is a refreshing companion to educate and reassure them about their changing bodies during puberty. Illustrated in full colour and including personal stories, The Breast Book demystifies breasts, how they work and why, sharing knowledge about breastfeeding and inspiring body confidence in an accessible format.

Emma says,

“Our society teaches girls that breasts are either ‘sexy’ or not to be spoken about at all. Girls are entering a world of 24 hour selfies which may not always give the healthiest messages.

Girls deserve to be part of the contemporary conversation about women’s bodies and how society values them. There seem to be unspoken rules about breasts in our society. Nipples are expected to be invisible. Breasts are expected to be immobile. Bras must be worn. Even in the middle school years, those rules can be questioned or at least investigated.

How does it feel to have breasts? How do they grow? How have other women felt about those changes? Where does confidence comes from? What’s the story on bras? Let’s answer these questions fully. Dozens of people – young and old- have shared their stories to ensure breasts are finally spoken about to the girls meeting theirs for the first time.”

Available now on Amazon

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Don’t Stew – Ask Sue Parenting Q & A

Q. Dear Sue My son Jason has just started teething. I hate the dentists but when should I start taking him & how do I make him OK with going? Elaine Roberts, London

Dear Elaine

Thank you for contacting me, here are my tips for you: 

Helping Children Who Are Scared of Going to the Dentist.
For some children, it only takes the word “dentist” to send them into a terrified spin. As a parent you obviously care about your child’s oral health, but forcing a scared, anxious child into the dentist’s chair can seem like a daunting task. If you’re struggling with your child’s dental fears, here are a few tips to help them cope and make dental visits a normal part of life while they’re young:

1. Start dental visits while they’re young.
Most dentist advise parents to take their child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. Taking your child to dental appointments while they’re young is not only beneficial to their dental health in the long run, but it also gets them familiar with going to the dentist. It helps them to feel comfortable with dental procedures when nothing is actually wrong, so it builds confidence and trust with the dentists. Plus, you’re able to educate them on the importance of oral care while they are young which will build good habits.

2. Play “Dentist” with them at home.
Before you take your child to their appointment, play ‘Dentists’- & have a pretend dentist visit. Let your child role-play as they pretend to clean your teeth and visa versa. With a toothbrush, a chair, and a mirror, you can easily set up a pretend dental visit in your own home. You can go through & ‘make believe’ what the procedures will be like at a real dental visit. You can even practice pretend procedures like counting and cleaning teeth on each other or stuffed animals.

3. Read them books about going to the dentist.
Another way to help eliminate fear and get a child relaxed about going to the dentist is through picture books. Through easy-to-understand language and colourful illustrations, your child will have a better idea of what to expect at their dental visit. Scholastic has a variety of fun dentist story books, such as:

3. Communicate, but keep it simple.
Don’t spring a surprise, unexpected dental appointment on your child as this won’t give them enough time to mentally prepare for it. Keep your child informed about their upcoming visit in advance, and gently remind them as the appointment day approaches. Limit the amount of scary details that you share, keep things simple (KISS) and remind them that they can ask the dentist questions, too. Answer any questions they may have with straight-forward answers. Avoid saying that everything will be fine, because if you child ends up needing a treatment, they might lose trust in both the dentist and you.

4. Stick to positive words.
Avoid using words like “painful,” “hurt,” or “injections,” when talking to your kids about their dental visit. Dental staff are trained and experienced in making the experience positive & know how to introduce the dental procedures to children. You can ask them beforehand how to communicate using safe and comforting words. A lovely expression to use is that ‘The dentist is going to check their smile and count their teeth.’ Stick to words like “clean, strong, healthy teeth” to make children excited or curious instead of afraid of seeing the dentist.

5. Stay calm, even when they’re not.
It’s normal for a child not to want to have their mouth examined by a stranger. You can expect some fussing, whining, and wiggling as you get them to their dental appointment & into the dental chair. Do your best to remain cool, calm & collected so you pass that message on to your kids & don’t feel embarrassed even if they throw a wobbly fit—all dentists have seen their fair share of temper tantrums from children who fear the dentist. Let the staff guide you on how to make your child comfortable during the procedures, whether it be giving them their favourite toy or holding their hand.

6. Use praise instead of bribery.
Bribery might send children the wrong message about visiting the dentist. Things like offering them sweets if they don’t fuss or cry may make them wonder why the dentist is bad enough to upset them. (Plus, sugary sweets aren’t really a great option when you’re trying teaching them about preventing cavities.) Instead, use positive reinforcement. When they display good behaviour, praise them for it. Encouraging them with stickers or other little treats after the visit works as a great reward too.

7. Teach them the importance of oral care.
Teaching your children, the importance of oral hygiene is an investment in their health. While they’re young, you can set expectations for what keeping healthy teeth looks like: regular dental visits, brushing twice a day, flossing, etc. Remind them that a dentist is a friendly doctor for their teeth, helping to keep their smiles beautiful and strong. This will not only help them feel more comfortable with the idea of regular dental visit, but also reinforce the importance of proper dental care for years to come.

When nothing seems to be working to ease your child’s fear, there are a few other things you can do:

  • Tell the dentist about your child’s fear. Informing your dentist about your child’s fear will make things smoother for the both of you. That way, they will be able to prepare themselves to handle your child’s anxiety and put them at ease at their appointment.
  • Consider conscious sedation. As safer drugs have been developed, more dental professionals and staff are being trained and certified to offer conscious sedation in their facilities. Using mild anti-anxiety drugs may be a helpful option for your child. During this procedure, the child is sedated and monitored by a certified staff member. This will allow them to have a comfortable procedure, and the sedation will wear off in the hours following their treatment.
  • Therapy may be a helpful option. Sometimes therapy is necessary for helping your child overcome their dental anxiety. Receiving behavioural therapy or psychotherapy will help your child receive the dental treatment they need.

The best thing you can do for your child’s oral health is to maintain it from the time they get their first teeth. Even when they have trouble overcoming their dental anxiety, don’t let them miss their regular check-ups. It’s important that you help them overcome their fear in order to receive the dental care they need.

Q. Dear Sue Our daughter Matilda, who turns 8 on Saturday, has started being fussy with her food. We’re not sure why as she’s always been OK before. Can you help? Roger Desmond from Shropshire

Dear Roger 

Thanks for contacting me, please see below, my comments and links to articles plus a free resource that I hope will help you. 

Has anything changed? New sibling? New school? Friendship issues? Attention seeking?

Article: Fussy Eaters & How To Keep Your Sanity!

Article: Spice Up Your Little Ones Taste and Smell Senses – How to Tackle A ‘Fussy Eater’

The Sue Atkins Food Diary (Free Resource)

Lots of parents go through the same thing with their children as faddy eating is often a phase that young children go through to explore their independence, test you out and to get some of your attention

My Food Diary will help you relax as you keep a record of the food your child is eating over the course of a whole week! This daily diary will help you to plan your child’s diet, ensuring that they get just the right amount of proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates that are so important.

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Free ebook, The Positive Parent Daily Workout

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