little girl covering her face on black background

For children, the world is big and brand new. They are still learning how to navigate their day-to-day lives. So when a new experience – like a dental visit – comes along, it can be frightening. The unfamiliar people, sights, sounds, and smells can be intimidating, even for children who have been to the dentist before. But as a parent, this can be exasperating and leave you wondering: How do you make your child less scared at the dentist?

As with all things related to kids, compassion and understanding are key. You can prepare your child in advance, at the same time showing them that you understand their concerns and that you don’t judge them in any way. Of course, it’s always important to choose the right dentist. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt is devoted specifically to pediatric dentistry. He and his Overland Park, KS, team know how to put little ones at ease and make their dental visits an enjoyable experience. 

Contact us to set up an appointment. 

Talk about What to Expect

Among children, fear of the dentist is very common. In fact, 8% of surveyed 9-year-olds report dental anxiety. Fortunately, good preparation can significantly reduce anxiety. 

Before visiting the dentist, discuss what will happen. If your child is old enough to remember their previous appointments, have them describe what happened with as much detail as possible. Encourage them to remember any fears they may have had and what they did to work through them. 

Especially for younger children, who may not remember their last dental appointments, it may be helpful to play pretend. Use a doll while you or your child pretend to be a dentist. Then have your child play the role of the dentist while you pretend to be the patient!

Read Books about Visiting the Dentist 

There are lots of kids’ books about dentists. Choose a variety of books that discuss what to expect at the dentist, as well as the importance of good dental health. Just be sure to vet the books before reading them to your child. Some books could actually instill more fear, depending on your child’s personality. You know your child best!

Let Them Accompany You to the Dentist 

If they are old enough to sit through it, allow your child to come with you to your own dental appointment. That way, they can see what will happen and learn that everyone needs dental care. 

Choose a Pediatric Dentist

Though there are many great dentists out there, pediatric dentists are specially trained in the treatment of children. Not only do they possess clinical knowledge of children’s dental needs; they also have the energy and flexibility necessary to treat children

Dr. Matt has a great rapport with kids and truly loves working with them. He understands how to help frightened children. With their fun-loving and gentle demeanor, he and his team have their young patients laughing and smiling in no time!

Learn More about How You Can Make Your Child Less Scared at the Dentist 

To learn more tips for dental anxiety or to schedule an appointment, contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids today. Reach us online or call us at (913) 685-9990. 

When kids come to the dentist, the new sights and sounds can make them a little nervous. But for children who suffer from dental anxiety, visiting the dentist is not merely nerve wracking. It can be an overwhelming and highly emotional experience

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids in Overland Park, KS, Dr. Matt and his team have years of experience treating children. Our gentle, friendly demeanor is often enough to put kids at ease. If necessary, we can also provide IV sedation for youngsters with severe anxiety. 

We know that anxious kids make for anxious parents! But we will walk you through every stage of your visit and support you as you help your child. Contact our office today to learn more. 

Why is my child afraid of the dentist?

Dental anxiety is common, affecting an estimated 9% of pediatric patients. Anxiety can arise for many reasons. 

  • A history of dental problems from a young age
  • Parents passing on their own dental anxiety to their kids
  • Shyness
  • General anxiety
  • Cognitive development 

What can I do at home to help my child overcome her fears?

One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that you always speak positively about the dentist. If you struggle with dental anxiety yourself, talk to your own dentist about ways to soothe your nerves before and after treatment. 

Additionally, never use dental care as a threat. For example, you might be tempted to say, “If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get a cavity and have to go to the dentist!” But this only makes children associate dental care with punishment. Instead, use positive reinforcement to encourage good oral hygiene. 

To give your child support, look for some kids’ books about visiting the dentist. Often a picture book can give your child a visual idea of what to expect. And when she sees kids in storybooks being brave about the dentist, she may feel inspired to be courageous themselves! 

Finally, you are always welcome to bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to your appointment. We know that these little things can be a huge comfort to our younger patients!

What steps do you take in the office to help anxious kids?

We offer free exams and cleanings to kids under 2. At these appointments we will check their dental development and recommend any appropriate treatment. But the visits are primarily to introduce ourselves to your child and acclimate them to the office. 

At subsequent visits, your child will see Dr. Matt every time. He remembers his patients and their interests, so he can engage them and keep them smiling the whole time. 

Finally, for kids with higher levels of anxiety, we can provide IV sedation. Intravenous sedation will put your child into a “twilight sleep.” He will technically be awake, but he will be deeply relaxed. And he will have little to no memory of treatment when the medication wears off. We recommend sedation only when it is absolutely necessary. But for very anxious children, sedation can enable us to perform important treatment that could prevent a lifetime of dental problems. 

Contact Us for Compassionate, Stress-Free Care

If your child suffers from dental anxiety, find a dentist who specializes in treating children. Dr. Matt’s demeanor and rapport with kids can go a long way in alleviating anxiety.

Book your appointment online or call our Overland Park office at (913) 685-9990.

Anxious young boy hiding behind table with with red glasses

What causes dental anxiety and stress? Is it the sound of dental tools or the clinical smell? Is it the rumors and misconceptions spread about dental treatments? While no conclusive research pinpoints the exact source of dental anxiety, 3 in 4 children suffer from it.

Pediatric dentists and parents can help children overcome this common inconvenience. Although there are many actions that parents can take to prepare their children before the dental visit, here are five techniques that pediatric dentists apply to ease dental anxiety in children:

1.     Create a Positive Environment

Despite popular belief, visiting the dentist can be an exciting moment in a child’s life! Bare walls can cause patients to feel anxious. Hence, pediatric dentists often decorate their clinics with bright colors and cheerful décor. Also, supplying child-centric media and video games can make trips to the dentist awesome.

In addition to choosing offices with a kid-friendly atmosphere, parents can encourage children to bring a positive attitude to their dental visits. Children can cope before and during the appointment by bringing comfort items from home—such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

2.     Speak in a Friendly Tone

As parents, we often analyze how we speak to our children because it influences the relationship between child and parent. Usually, how something is said impacts children more than what is said. Children are more likely to listen to adults with a reasonable, nice tone instead of a harsh, aggressive one. Our entire dental team is trained to speak with children respectfully so that our young patients can feel confident in being themselves and placing trust in our staff.

3.     Keep the Child Engaged

The charm of young people is that they are often full of energy and life. However, it’s no secret that most children get restless without hesitation. A helpful technique that pediatric dentists implement is asking children easygoing questions to build a rapport, distract them from treatment, and just for fun. Constant, clear communication with easy-to-comprehend terminology can help reduce the anxiety of patients of any age.

4.     Remain Calm and Patient

When young children feel wound up at a dental appointment, it’s important not to “poke the bear.” Pediatric dentists remain calm and try not to rush procedures because this can add to a child’s existing anxiety. Instead, our dentist takes extra time and attention with each child because it gives both the dentist and patient a sense of control in a perceived high-stress situation.

5.     Use of Nitrous Oxide

Regardless of how inviting the team or practice is, some young patients may still feel anxiety, especially if their main concern is discomfort. A pediatric dentist may suggest nitrous oxide (commonly referred to as “laughing gas”) in these instances. This mild form of sedation is safe and effective for children.

Book Your Child’s Next Appointment with Dr. Matt

Dr. Matt and his dedicated team focus on forming positive bonds and nurturing experiences to help younger children feel more comfortable at the dentist’s office. By creating rewarding dental experiences early, children can take this optimistic oral health outlook with them into adulthood.

To learn more about how to help children overcome their dental anxiety in Overland Park, KS, contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids by calling (913) 685-9990 or requesting an appointment online today.

little girl laying under grey blanket sucking her thumb

From their first teeth, to their first steps, and their first day of school, parents strive for healthy lives for their children. This includes promoting life-long oral health habits. Dental-related issues are prevalent among children, so preventative and proactive care is essential.

In this blog, we discuss six of the most common dental problems that affect young children and adolescents.

1. Cavities

According to the Center of Disease Control and prevention, about 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated cavity. Why? In addition to sugar-heavy diets, most young children aren’t proficient at oral hygiene routines without supervision. Inconsistent and inadequate flossing and brushing often lead to dental decay.

When a sticky film of bacteria (plaque) isn’t removed from the tooth’s surface, the acid in the plaque erodes the enamel and eventually wears away at the tooth.

Dentists advise parents to supervise and help young children brush their teeth, ensuring that they remove plaque, bacteria, and debris twice a day to prevent cavities from forming. If tooth decay develops, dentists must treat it to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the mouth.

2. Dental Emergencies

Accidents happen, which means dental emergencies can happen at any time. As kids adjust to their growing bodies or are physically active, they are more prone to dental-related accidents. If teeth fracture or get knocked out completely, this is considered a dental emergency.

If a dental emergency happens (especially if the tooth is lost), immediately call the dentist and set up an emergency appointment. Early prevention, intervention, and treatment are vital to saving your child’s smile.

3. Excessive Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

Did you know that some babies suck their thumbs before they’re even born? Babies have innate sucking reflexes, which can cause them to place their thumbs or fingers in their mouths. Sucking thumbs and pacifiers is an appropriate and valuable self-soothing technique for very young children.

However, most medical professionals do not encourage children to suck their fingers past their fifth birthday. On top of relentless social difficulties, prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to abnormal bite and speech issues.

4. Gum Disease

Unfortunately, chronic gingivitis is common among children. Gingivitis is a reversible infection signified by red, swollen gums that may lightly bleed when your child brushes or flosses.

Generally, gum disease becomes more aggressive over time in children that do not practice adequate oral hygiene. Periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is irreversible and may involve gum recession, discomfort, and tooth loss if left untreated.  

5. Orthodontic Issues

Perfectly straight teeth without intervention are rare. Today, dentists expect up to 70% of American children to wear orthodontic devices to perfect their smiles. Orthodontic problems are typically genetic, with tooth and jaw size and shape playing a role in how teeth form and align.

Beyond aesthetic reasons, misaligned teeth can pose life-long health problems. It can be difficult for children to clean between crooked or crowded teeth, which may lead to the development of gum disease. Furthermore, overcrowded or misaligned teeth can cause jaw difficulties and fractured teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists advocates that children receive their first orthodontic checkup at age seven to evaluate jaw and teeth development and create a treatment plan (if needed).

6. Dental Anxiety and Fear

Dental anxiety is a common worldwide phenomenon that affects 36% of children. Sadly, this often learned behavior can result in serious oral health consequences. Parents have the power to change the narrative and foster a more positive relationship with the dentist’s office for their children.

Schedule an Appointment

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt provides proven, kid-friendly dental care to help his young patients reach and sustain peak oral health. Contact our Overland Park, KS office today at (913) 685-9990 or message us online to schedule a consultation.

little girl with surprised or fearful face on purple background

Dental fear is common in children and adults. In almost every case, this is a learned behavior that isn’t caused by a first-hand experience. Sadly, dental fear in children can lead to serious oral health problems later in life.

As a parent, you hope to raise a healthy and happy child. Dental fear puts both of those goals at risk. In this blog, we’ll discuss what causes dental fear in children, the consequences of dental fear, and how to help your little one overcome it.

Causes of Dental Fear

A child who has never been to the dentist may have different fears than one who has experienced the dentist. Therefore, the causes of dental fear are wide-ranging. Here are the most common reasons that children are afraid of the dentist:

  1. The child is unprepared for the appointment. Fear of the unknown is real and valid. Children may express fear or anxiety about an upcoming dental appointment because they don’t know what to expect.
  2. Their parents are afraid of the dentist. Try not to project your own fear of the dentist onto your little one. The same goes for all of the other adults in your child’s life! The way you talk about the dentist matters and has an immense impact on how he will act during the appointment and his oral health.
  3. TV shows or books portray the dentist as scary. Dental appointments and procedures are the topic of many TV shows and books. In some cases, the main character is afraid at first, but the appointment ends up going a lot better than expected. In other shows, the character has a really bad experience. This can lead your child to believe that all dentists are bad and should be feared.
  4. The child had a bad experience at the dentist’s office. A first-hand poor experience at the dentist’s office can be difficult to overcome. If your little one had a bad dental appointment, we are so sorry to hear that! Hopefully, a new dentist can undo the damage.

Consequences of Dental Fear

Just like any other fear, dental fear has consequences. For children, it may mean that their parents are less likely to bring them to the dentist regularly. This could lead to untreated oral health issues, early tooth loss, and improper dental development.

Children with dental fear grow up to be adults who avoid the dentist’s office at all costs which may result in serious oral and overall health problems like cavities, gum disease, poor self-esteem, diabetes, and heart disease.

Help Your Child Overcome Dental Fear

Want to ensure your little one grows up with a healthy smile and good oral hygiene habits? Here are five ways to ease your child’s dental fear:

  1. Change the narrative. Tell your child about a positive experience you have had with a dentist. it could be as simple as your first dental experience as a child, a dental cleaning appointment that went off without a hitch, or a serious procedure that made you feel so much better.
  2. Prepare her for the appointment. Play dentist at home, using common household items as dental tools. Make sounds with your mouth that the real ones will make at the office, have your child sit back as if she was in the dental chair, brush her teeth, and have her pretend to be the dentist, too!
  3. Allow him to bring comfort items. No rule says a child can’t bring a stuffed animal, blanket, or toy to the dentist’s office. In fact, our pediatric dentist encourages it! We want your little one to feel as comfortable and at home as possible.
  4. Watch a TV show that portrays the dentist in a positive light. Peppa Pig, Dora, Arthur, and several other kids’ shows have episodes where the main character overcomes their own dental fear when they realize the dentist isn’t really scary at all. This should help ease your little one’s fear and anxiety.
  5. Find the best pediatric dentist near you. An experienced, trusted, and passionate pediatric dentist will ensure your child has the best dental experience possible. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, check Google reviews, and make sure the dentist is the right fit for your little one.

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt is passionate about providing comfortable, kid-friendly dental care to help his patients achieve and maintain optimal oral health. If you’re searching for a pediatric dentist in Overland Park, KS, look no further! Contact our office today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an initial consultation.

nervous young girl standing in front of green background

Bright colors. Toys and games in the waiting room. Smiling and happy team members. A gentle, kid-friendly dentist. All of these should add up to a comfortable and fun dental experience for a child. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Dental fear and anxiety are real issues for children (and adults). While most adults can attribute theirs to a bad dental experience, children often can’t. Most of the time, children fear what they don’t know, or they’ve heard horror stories from the adults in their lives.

If your little one is preparing for his first visit to the dentist and is feeling a little anxious, check out these five tips to help him overcome his dental fear.

1. Tell a story about a positive experience you’ve had at the dentist.

Many children fear the dentist because of stories they’ve heard from friends and family members. Change the narrative by sharing a story about a good experience you’ve had at the dentist.

This could be something as simple as dental cleaning and exam appointment that went smoothly. Tell the story in a kid-friendly way. If sharing a story about another dental procedure, try to leave out specific details that might scare your little one.

2. Play dentist at home.

Rather than playing house, school, or doctor, offer to play dentist! This will ensure her first dental experience is a good one. All you need is a comfy chair and a toothbrush. Have your little one lean back so you can brush or count her teeth, then have her do the same for you.

3. Watch a TV show or read a book about a kid who visits the dentist.

SpongeBob, Dora, Arthur, and Peppa Pig all have TV shows about visiting the dentist. This provides an idea of what a dentist’s office looks and sounds like. In many of these episodes, the character feels afraid of the dentist, then realizes it isn’t scary after all. We hope this is true for your child, too!

4. Have her pick out a comfort item to bring to her appointment.

Does she have a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or toy? Be sure to bring it to the appointment! we want all our patients to feel as safe and comfortable as possible; sometimes that means bringing an item from home to help ease any anxiety, and that’s more than okay.

5. Choose the right pediatric dentist.

One of the most important aspects of a good dental experience is choosing the right dentist for your child. this may require some research on your behalf, but it will definitely be worth it!

Not all pediatric dentists are equal, and we know you want the best for your little one. When searching for a pediatric dentist, look for these qualities:

  • Experience
  • A passion for helping children achieve optimal oral health
  • Excellent patient reviews
  • An up-to-date, detailed, and fun website
  • A priority of patient comfort

We’re sure that a dentist with these qualities won’t let you or your child down.

Eliminating Dental Fear in Overland Park

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt and the rest of our team prioritize the patient experience and providing excellent dental care so that dental fear is never an issue.

Here’s a review from one of our most recent patients:

“Our kids had been to many dentist office and it was always a scary experience for them (yes even pediatric ones). We found Smiles from a friend and we LOVE them! They’re so amazing with kids, and scared adults when our kiddos needed some work done. Quick schedule dates and they follow up after every appointment with hand written cards to the kids in the mail-my kids love getting their own mail. They just truly care.”

Malarie C.

Contact our office today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule a first visit for your child.

We are excited to welcome Dr Tara Craven to the Smiles Dentistry for Kids team!Learn More