How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the Dentist

Pediatric Dentists in Grand Rapids MI

While it’s not uncommon for people to dread a dentist appointment, children may need extra help getting over their fear of the dentist. Our best advice is to start dental treatment for children early so that they accept trips to the dentist as a normal part of life.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children have their first dental appointment within 6 months of getting their first tooth (age 1 by the latest). It’s also important to have a conversation with your child about what they can expect from their first appointment so they can mentally prepare.


Reasons why children experience dental anxiety include:

  • Parents are afraid of the dentist
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of needles
  • Fear of losing control or being helpless
  • Fear of new places
  • Change in routine
  • Insufficient preparation for child’s first dental appointment

If your child continues to feel apprehensive about going to the dentist, you may want to ask your Grand Rapids family dentist what options are available to help them feel more relaxed. Delaying dentist appointments for children only creates an opportunity for cavities to grow unchecked. A dentist for children deals with fearful patients every day and wants to help your child overcome their fear so they can maintain a healthy smile.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide (also called laughing gas) is mixed with oxygen and administered through a special mask placed over your child’s nose. Your child will then be asked to breathe in the gas which works quickly to help them relax. During the procedure, your child will be awake and responsive. However, most patients don’t remember what happened during the procedure. Dental nitrous oxide is safe for children and quickly wears off once the mask is removed.

Oral Conscious Sedation

If your child’s pediatric dentist decides that oral conscious sedation is most appropriate for your child’s level of anxiety, your child will drink a special medicine that helps them feel relaxed. Keep in mind that you’ll need to closely monitor your child after the procedure and keep them at home for the rest of the day until the medicine wears off. Oral conscious sedation is safe, yet effective for children with dental fear.

General Anesthesia

In rare cases, a child may need general anesthesia for dental procedures. For example, a child with special needs may not understand why their Grand Rapids pediatric dentist needs to drill into their tooth to remove a cavity and not cooperate unless put under general anesthesia.

A pediatric special needs dentist will be able to help you determine the best way to treat your child. For your child’s safety, we do the procedure in a hospital and have an anesthesiologist in charge of sedation.

Dr. Kingma DDS at Kingma Pediatric Dentistry is dedicated to helping patients overcome their fear of the dentist so they can get the pediatric dental treatment they need. If you are interested in learning more about sedation dentistry for children, be sure to call our pediatric dentist in Grand Rapids at (616) 942-9840.