My Kid Is Terrified of the Dentist & I Don't Know What to Do

My son will be 8 years old this August, and so far he's only lost two baby teeth. One came out on its own, the other was extracted at the dentist once it became apparent that he was growing a freaky double row of bottom front teeth like a shark. I mean, a cute shark who loves giving hugs and talking incessantly about Ninjago, but still. Creepy and, according to the dentist, a situation that had the potential to mess up the alignment of his permanent teeth.

I'm dismayed his teeth seem to be clinging to his jaw with such fierce tenaciousness, because if those suckers don't start loosening up and falling out on their own, it's inevitable he'll have to endure another dentist visit. And honestly, I don't know if ANY of us can survive another visit like what happened last time.

My husband was the one who took our son to the dentist for the extraction. Truthfully, we had no idea they were going to do anything other than look at the teeth and give us advice on the matter, but once they decided the tooth needed to come out, we saw no point in prolonging the situation.

From what I hear, the dental team did everything they could to be gentle and keep our boy calm, but ... well, I won't get into the details, but suffice to say my husband came home absolutely drenched in sweat from head to toe, still reeling from the experience of holding down our shrieking, sobbing, panicked child while they worked to get the tooth out.

Here's a chipper line of copy from the Children's Dentistry website that seems to imply extractions are no big deal whatsoever:

The removal of a baby tooth is generally a painless and quick procedure that most kids tolerate just fine! Most of our patients go home with a smile excited about getting a visit from the tooth fairy!

Let's just say this was NOT our situation. AT ALL.

So this is not one of those articles where I offer any useful information to you, dear reader. This is a cry for help. I'm wondering if any of you have gone through anything like this, where your child develops a fear of the dentist that's so overwhelming, he bursts into tears if you even mention the possibility of a visit.

I suspect part of the problem for us is that we didn't take him to a pediatric dentist (our insurance at the time only covered a handful of places in town, none of which were pediatric). They said they treated children all the time, but it wasn't a kid-specific office, so it's possible the next place we go to will have more distractions/calming techniques? Although I'm not sure my kid will fall for it: this place tried to refer to a device as a "tooth hugger," and he shot back, "I'M NOT DUMB, THOSE ARE PLIERS!!!!”

My son's tragic drawing of the various "hugging" tools he encountered is at the top of this post, by the way. Frankly, I can't really blame him for his phobia -- just looking at the image gives ME shivers.

Anyway, if you have any advice, I would sure love to hear it. He's got exactly one tooth right now that's a little wiggly, but other than that, his baby teeth don't seem to be going anywhere, damn it all to hell. I suspect he'll need another dental appointment before too long, and I have no idea how to make it easier on him.

Is your kid scared of the dentist? Does anything help make visits less traumatic?

Image via Linda Sharps

boys, kid health


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Katie DeHesa

i can TOTES relate!!!!!!!!!!!!!  i have one son (special needs on top of this) who is terrified of dentist.  i had to go through MANY MANY ped Dentists to find one who would first and foremost HEAR MEEEE out before ANY chair time for my son...  it had been so bad that my husband and i both feared taking him to the dentist, but his current ped dentist is fantastic ...  and i also know that if you just let the darn tooth grow out ((with the new one pushing it out)) saves so much heart ache and fear-fits.. despite all the fear tactics of "permanent damage to adult teeth".. yah--people have lived..adults wear braces, its all good no matter what... 

Kim Myers Brown

I have a similar phobia from a traumatic oral surgery when I was a kid. When my son had to have a baby tooth pulled, I told the dentist very clearly that I wanted him to have nitrous oxide (laughing gas) so it would be a better experience for him. They tried to dissuade me, but I wouldn't relent. It was an extra expense, but may be something to discuss with your dentist. If not, maybe switch to a new pediatric dentist (if your insurance now allows) -- perhaps the new scenery will be less scary for your son. Do they do "sedation dentistry" for children?

Coles... Coles_mom

I can't say it loud enough...SEDATION DENTISTRy!!!!!!!!!

Anneli Barnes

We did go to a pediatric dentist/specialist after a terrible (shrieking hysterical abcessed tooth extraction) first experience.  TOTALLY different atmosphere and vibe, and the main concern was keeping the child calm and relaxed.   I didn't even care at that point if our insurance covered (they did) the visit, it was so worth it.  BTW, they are more likely to *aid* in relaxing the child via meds, etc., so that was probably the key to the whole thing.  Good luck.....................

Sheilah Horman

I have a picture of my son with a permanent tooth right behind the baby tooth.  Baby tooth eventually came out and permanent tooth took its place.  No dentist visit needed.  Disclaimer: I am not a dentist...YMMV, etc.

LadyKiki LadyKiki

My son loved the dentist. He hasn't had a bad experience with it. I on the other hand am horrified. I break out into a cold sweat just on the drive to it. I have had a lot of really bad experiences. I finally found a dentist that does sedation dentistry. I have to pay out of pocket for most of the sedation, but I will gladly do it. I hope your son can overcome the fear. I know I am 30 and I am more horrified now than when I was 8.

nonmember avatar Yikes

I'm going to be watching comments on this closely. I have yet to take my 1 year old to the dentist. I'm positive he will be panicked and I refuse to hold him down unless its an emergency situation, clearly not at the dentist office... I say I'm positive because he bursts into tears if a stranger gets to close and HATES his teeth being looked at, I think he's protective because of teething... I don't know when his first visit NEEDS to be, but I'm leaning towards sedation right off the bat. I hate the thought but I feel like its the only way around the trauma, and when he's much older start talking him through it and not using sedation. I don't know how patents can hold down a panicked child... I can't :( I feel like a crappy mom sometimes but I just can't. His dr has tried to make me to get him stretched out for his height (under a year they refused to do it standing) and for shots, one nurse lets me hold him the other wants him pinned down even if he is gagging and spitting up he's so upset! Needless to say we've had to go back for shots with a different nurse and left a few appts without getting height.... I wish there was better options for kids :( :(

Caera Caera

Drug him with a tranquilizer.

Or buy a straightjacket.

Or don't bother with it. Baby teeth do eventually fall out, no matter what. 

Dentist, like all doctors, just want to make money.

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

While I do agree with letting well enough alone, to the poster who says baby teeth fall out eventually no matter what- No, they do not. I had my last baby tooth extracted at 18. And it was not lose. It was a top canine, and my permanent tooth had pushed it sideways rather than out. It was at a perfect right angle to my permanent teeth. Luckily you couldn't see it but it was impossible to brush and clearly not leaving on its own.

keelh... keelhaulrose

When I was young my baby teeth didn't come out, and it gave me so many dental problems I had to wear braces for ten years and I still am a surgery or two shy of having a perfect smile at 29.

Because of my no-teeth-falling-out condition I had to go in every so often and get several taken out. My mom found a place that did sedation dentistry, so they would give laughing gas or a shot to get me down before doing the procedcure. Each time before we went she, my dad, and I would set up a 'recovery zone' in our family room. They would set up a bed or make the couch comfortable, once they even set up a tent. My favorite movies were rewound (yeah, tapes), and stacked next to the VCR for easy switching. And the freezer was stocked with ice cream for milk shakes and popsicles to suck on. And, to tell what really happened, even though I was all excited for my special recovery area they hardly ever had to sit and baby me. I would be up quickly and playing games, stoked I could watch Beauty and the Beast on repeat without anyone complaining.

Give your son something to look forward to, and the present won't be so scary. And totally look into sedation dentistry if it's that big a concern.

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