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Going to the dentist can be stressful for children but it doesn’t have to be. We look at practical ways to prevent fears of the dentist and dental anxiety in kids.

With extreme dental anxiety affecting one in ten children, and more than half of all Australian six-year olds presenting evidence of tooth decay in their baby or adult teeth, educating children from a young age about the importance of maintaining good oral health is essential.

Between 60-90% of school children present issues of tooth decay, with severe periodontitis and untreated decay leading to pain and discomfort.

Dental Health Week runs from the 3rd -10th August and it’s an opportune time to educate parents on how to prevent dental anxiety in their kids.

Dr Padma Gadiyar, a dentist, healthcare consultant and technology innovator,  shares her top five tips on how to eliminate fears of the dentist and dental anxiety from a young age:

1) Take your child for regular dental check-ups, not just when a problem arises

According to a study undertaken in 2019, 68% of children aged 5–10 are more likely to visit due to a dental problem, not for a regular check-up. The more regularly your child visits the dentist, the more comfortable they become with the process as they build trust with their dentist are more likely to have positive experiences due to less complications with their teeth. The longer you leave between appointments, the higher chance your child has of developing issues such as cavities which requires procedures that can lead to dental anxiety.

2) Gamify oral check-ups through the Smilo.ai app prior to dental appointments

Using AI, the Smilo.ai app allows your child to take a photo of their teeth in order to receive an oral health rating. Setting fun challenges for your child to increase their oral health rating encourages them to form positive oral health habits and prevents tooth decay for generations to come. The app empowers children to take control of their dental health and be aware of problems as they arise so they know what procedure to expect for their next dental appointment.

3) Educate your child about a ‘teeth friendly’ diet

To prevent tooth decay, ensure your child is aware of the benefits of a balanced and healthy diet with plenty of water. To ensure your child develops strong teeth and gums, avoid over consumption of foods such as lollies, chocolates and sugary drinks as these are key catalyst for cavities which can lead to dental anxiety.

4) Make the brushing process fun and enjoyable

Brushing for two minutes, twice a day as well as flossing daily is recommended. To make brushing more exciting, parents can use coloured toothbrushes or songs to encourage brushing. Instil a rule of no more eating after brushing.

5) Use a fluoride toothpaste

Using a fluoride toothpaste from the start of your child’s teeth journey is important for future decay prevention. 

Dr Padma Gadiyar is a dentist, healthcare consultant and technology innovator with the creation of the Smilo.ai app. Smilo.ai is a world-first free to download app, using AI to provide oral health ratings, identifying unrecognised or hidden dental decay and gum disease, as well as dental blogs, ask-a-dentist forums and reminders for your next appointment. Ideal for all individuals, particularly those in regional areas, the elderly and with the limitations forced upon us by COVID-19, smilo.ai is all about giving individual’s control of their dental health.

How do your kids feel about going to the dentist? What strategies have you used to overcome dental anxiety? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • We’ve always encouraged good dental health with our children. Fortunately they are okay with visiting the dentist.

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  • This is so hard!

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  • I have 3 kids.My eldest is the first one meet the dentist always as he brave.So the youngest one watching how he goes and make her mind.

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  • I take my kids regularly to the school dental clinic and they are fantastic and so lovely. Even still my kids dont really like going….

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  • I would go to the dentist every 6 months but then I went to one and he put a needle in to deaden an area and the needle hit the bone and bent. He wrenched the needle out and I swore I’d never go again. Twenty years later I had to see a dentist due to an excruciating toothache. I explained what happened and he promised he wouldn’t hurt. He was true to his word and I’m back to regular visits. My boys now go for regular check ups too.

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  • We havnt yet been to the dentist (he’s to young) but I am absolutely petrified of going to the dentist! So I am going to do my best to make sure he isn’t.

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  • I hate the dentist – I really hate the sounds/noises. But, I go every 6 months for a checkup. My son has been going to the dentist from a very young age. He has ASD and sensory issues, so it was important for me to get him to a dentist early on so we could work on familiarising him with the lights, sounds, procedures, etc. As a result, he is so good with it and now is happy to go on his own. He has been a superstar with dentristy, and I wish I could take a leaf out of his book!!

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  • My kids didn’t have issues with the dentist. They had a van visit the school from when they started kindergarten so things were explained and encouraged from a young age. Which is good. I never had regular dentist checks growing up so when I had to go as an adult, I stressed to the Max!!!!!. Made worse by a bad visit. I now go every 6 months and am getting used to it

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  • I have anxiety myself when going to the dentist, so I’ve had to overcome it by finding ways to cope so I don’t pass on my feelings to my children. If they can be brave, I sure can.

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  • I hate the dentist but so hard to feel comfortable going during this pandemic

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  • Always done these things and started dental visits & checkup well before they had teeth ! However my youngest has a massive fear, I’ve a referral for a pediatric dentist now and think she needs sedation to get a check up done. :(

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  • Hoping when the time comes, my daughter is brave

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  • I’m not keen on the dentist either – necessary though

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  • My 11 year old is terrified of the dentist.

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  • My whole life i was scared of dentist…now i ak not scared of them but more about cost.


    • Yes that’s something you can be scared about lol !

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